Free action during an AoO : does it work ?


Rules Questions

Dark Archive

5 people marked this as FAQ candidate. 1 person marked this as a favorite.

Yesterday, during a PFS session, I had an argument with a player on the fact that I can use the grab hability (which is a free action) of a monster as part of its AoO.

I know that the only free action you can do - when it's not your turn - is speaking a short sentence.
But the FAQ here and the fact that the Rules said

PRD 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

Make me think that I was right to do that (using a free action as a part of another action which is an AoO).

But when I searched this messagebord for an obvious answer (and may be an official), I found only speculation and hot debate.

So I was wondering if I was wrong or not.

Did somebody have an official answer / ruling which can close this argument between my player and I ? Or it's a DM call ?


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

The way I read it, Grab triggers off the attack. Succeed at the attack and you are granted a free action (so that it does not use up your normal actions) to initiate a grapple. The fact that the triggering attack is an AoO is utterly beside the point.


I agree with Chemlak. The grab triggers off hitting a target with the natural attack. What allowed the attack doesn't matter.

SRD rule on Grab wrote:
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.

If the monster hits, it gets to grab. Furthermore, a free action is exactly that, completely free and usable at any time.

Dark Archive

Unfortunatly, a free action is not completely usable at any time.

PRD wrote:
In general, speaking is a free action that you can perform even when it isn't your turn.

This quote means that usually you can't use a free action outside of your turn except to speak.

That's on this matter that my player and I disagree.


specific > general.


Grab triggers off the attack, period.

If you hit with the attack (regardless of what initiated it), you get the free grapple attempt just like the SRD says.

Dark Archive

But my player doesn't agree with you ...

He says as you can't perform a free action outside of your turn, you can't use Grab during an AoO which is a free action (and not a "free" grapple).

SRD rule on Grab wrote:
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.

We had a big discussion on this matter and I want to have indisputable arguments to oppose to him (or to agree with him if I'm wrong)


SRD rule on Grab wrote:


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.

let's change the emphasis a little... remember, specific rule beats general rule. (ie: you cannot attack someone when it is not your turn, either)

Quote:
In general, speaking is a free action that you can perform even when it isn't your turn.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

The general rule in this case is that actions (including free actions) can only be taken on your turn in the initiative order.

Specific rules can break that general rule (such as the one about speaking being allowed out of turn).

Attacks of Opportunity are another specific rule that breaks the general rule.

The Grab ability follows a simple format for breaking the general rule: If (trigger) then (outcome) and (additional outcome).

If the trigger is met, then the outcome and additional outcome take effect, barring the GM saying it isn't possible. The fact that the additional outcome is defined as a free action is to allow the GM to deny it (since the limits on free actions are at GM discretion under all cases). The (possible) argument that it should be "not an action" is rendered nonsensical because non-actions are defined as an inherent part of another action, which would then require the grab to take place, even if the creature didn't want it to. By making it a free action, the choice to do it remains under the creature's control.

The long and short is that since specific trumps general, the grab outcomes take effect whenever the trigger condition is met, unless the creature decides not to use the ability, or the GM decides it is not possible.


Speaking is a free action that can be performed outside your turn. This implies that normally, free actions cannot be performed outside your turn; and an Attack of Opportunity is (often) performed outside your turn.

Since speaking is a free action that you can take outside your turn, then if you take the literal interpretation that free actions can be combined with other actions, then you can combine free actions with the free action of speaking outside your turn. You could speak and drop prone, speak and drop a weapon, speak and quickdraw a sword, etc.

I recommend against that.

The first time I butted up against this was a player who had Grab and enjoyed snatching enemies during AoOs. The ability was suspiciously overly-effective, and that's why I started looking to see if it was legal. The limitation on free actions being taken during your turn satisfactorily re-balanced play.

Shadow Lodge

I have to put my voice in for the Minority. The grab/trip and other free action attacks cannot be used with AOO.

Free actions, like all other actions except for AOOs, Imidiate actions and Speaking can only be done on your turn. That means that any ability that requires an actions to activate (baring the above) cannot be used unless it is your turn.

An AOO does not make it your turn. It only gives you an attack, not a standard action but a single melee attack. So you cannot use any other ability you have that requires an action.

If they wanted to make it so Grab worked with AOOs then they would have made the grab a non-action.


@Chemlak, thank you for understanding...


For a fun inconsistency, I seem to recall that a wolf gets a free Trip with its Bite attacks, and it does not specify whether it's any kind of action or not. Further, thinking how often this is done -- like delivering poison with a snake's bite -- I suspect that Grab is the exception here, and that most rider-abilities don't specify an action.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Wolves get the Trip special ability, which also includes the free action description, again with the "if it hits with the specified attack" wording. This makes it the same case as Grab. I can definitely see where the naysayers are coming from, but I'm pretty confident that RAI is to allow it on AoO.


pretty sure RAW too...


You can specifically reload a gun when you take an AoO with snap shot if reloading is a free action.

That isn't even part of an attack, you do it after. Anyway I will run they get a trip or whatever

Sczarni

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Society Subscriber

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.

While taking another action normally...like an AoO...you can do a free action.

Liberty's Edge

Ilmakis wrote:

But my player doesn't agree with you ...

He says as you can't perform a free action outside of your turn, you can't use Grab during an AoO which is a free action (and not a "free" grapple).

SRD rule on Grab wrote:
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.

We had a big discussion on this matter and I want to have indisputable arguments to oppose to him (or to agree with him if I'm wrong)

My opinion is that free actions are generally only allowed on the acting character's turn. That said, in addition to speaking, there are a number of other free actions that must be possible outside of the turn. Giants catching rocks comes to mind.

Whatever you decide about grab, you will have players who disagree with you. There are lots of things that can come up with different interpretations. It happens. Learn to distinguish between a player pointing out a clear rules problem and pointing out an item subject to some degree of interpretation. Knowing that the latter problem will come up, practice the following and use it: "This is an area that is unclear and subject to some rules interpretation. I have to make a ruling to allow the game to proceed. I've heard you. My ruling is <blah>. I'm happy to talk about it further after the game."

As an organized play GM, you'll be exposed to a lot of these types of things. Doing some research after (like you are doing now), makes you a better GM. You'll learn, realize that some self-reflection is a necessary part of the gig, grow, and maybe even change your mind from time to time. Enjoy the ride.

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