Readying an action outside of combat


Rules Questions

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Shadow Lodge

"Combat" begins whenever you need to measure either time, or the order of the party taking actions.

There doesn't even need to be an opposing force.

So if you want to ready an action outside of "combat", you most certainly can, because combat starts whenever you want it to.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Avatar-1 wrote:

"Combat" begins whenever you need to measure either time, or the order of the party taking actions.

There doesn't even need to be an opposing force.

So if you want to ready an action outside of "combat", you most certainly can, because combat starts whenever you want it to.

Not according to the rules... Combat often starts when PC's don't want it to (that's what an ambush is).

The 'Ready' action, is a standard action and "Actions' can't be taken out of combat. RAW What if both parties are 'Readied' who goes first then?

Now you can cast spells out of combat but it then comes down to the GM to decide how much time passes before combat starts. Hour per level buffs are fine, min per level buffs will probably be fine too. it's the round per level buffs that might be an issue.

Combat begins when both sides are aware of each other, the PC's may have retreated after seeing a guard tower and returned after buffing to try and surprise the guards in the tower. If the guards aren't aware of the PC's (usually a perception check of some kind vs. stealth etc) Then the PC's get a surprise round whilst the guards are unaware.


Tormsskull wrote:
Eridan wrote:
The archers waits for a target and the target is unawared of the archer. The archer surprises the targets an get a free standard action. Then the normal combat begins.

That's how I'd run it too.

Some posters seemed to be insinuating that as soon as the door is opened, both sides roll perception checks to see if anyone is surprised, and then conduct initiative as normal. Which seems really illogical. A guy kicks in the door, gets the jump on everyone inside, rushes forth 30 feet and swings his weapon before they can act.

Why wait for the door to open? What sort of penalty would the guy opening the door get for having the door in the way, versus what's the ad hoc bonus to the players for all the door noise and being expectant? Once they are aware of the enemy they get their surprise round, and they CAN use it to ready an action. That'll give them the jump they need. In the event that the enemy nails his perception and the players completely fumble theirs, then he could get the jump on them. THis DOES make sense. He's clearly startling them while they were dozing off.

To put it simply, it's all in the dice. You can't just say your character is going to do something and have that bypass rolling for stuff. Bonuses or penalties sure, but nothing is a sure thing in a game based on generating random numbers.


Avatar-1 wrote:

"Combat" begins whenever you need to measure either time, or the order of the party taking actions.

There doesn't even need to be an opposing force.

So if you want to ready an action outside of "combat", you most certainly can, because combat starts whenever you want it to.

There are no hard rules for when combat begins, so try to avoid a definitive statement about it.

If you allow a player to ready an action at any point for any thing, you've basically given him super awareness.

GM: The goblins jump out and ambush you
Player: I was readied to attack any enemy that shows up
GM: But you failed to notice them.
Player: I readied
GM: But you have a negative Dex and Perception
Player: I readied
GM: But your character was asleep/drunk/distracted/pooping
Player: I readied
GM: ...fine


While I agree with your overall sentiment, Davick, if we hypothetically assume you can ready actions outside of combat there are 'penalties' associated with constantly having an action readied. Since readying is itself a standard action, that means the only thing the PC could do throughout the day in your example is move.

If you're readying an action to attack something and you're not yet in combat, you're not readying an action - you're effectively setting up an ambush, which is covered by the surprise round rules.

As an example: Rougey the Rogue is having a conversation with Jim the Shopkeep. Rougey's been sent to kill Jim, but he's trying to get close enough to do it quietly. Rougey asks Jim to come around the counter and appraise some gear that he found, and his player says that he readies an action to stab Jim when he gets close enough.

This is a potential surprise round, not a readied action. Why? Because Jim should get a Perception check to notice that Rougey is palming a dagger. If Rougey beats Jim in an opposed Sleight of Hand vs. Perception roll, then Jim gets stabbed.


Xaratherus wrote:

While I agree with your overall sentiment, Davick, if we hypothetically assume you can ready actions outside of combat there are 'penalties' associated with constantly having an action readied. Since readying is itself a standard action, that means the only thing the PC could do throughout the day in your example is move.

If you're readying an action to attack something and you're not yet in combat, you're not readying an action - you're effectively setting up an ambush, which is covered by the surprise round rules.

As an example: Rougey the Rogue is having a conversation with Jim the Shopkeep. Rougey's been sent to kill Jim, but he's trying to get close enough to do it quietly. Rougey asks Jim to come around the counter and appraise some gear that he found, and his player says that he readies an action to stab Jim when he gets close enough.

This is a potential surprise round, not a readied action. Why? Because Jim should get a Perception check to notice that Rougey is palming a dagger. If Rougey beats Jim in an opposed Sleight of Hand vs. Perception roll, then Jim gets stabbed.

A time penalty in a game where years can pass in minutes and seconds can take hours isn't much of a penalty to be an all seeing god.

If you're readying to attack something and you're not in combat, you're breaking the rules ;)


Davick wrote:
A time penalty in a game where years can pass in minutes and seconds can take hours isn't much of a penalty to be an all seeing god.

Ah, but that's where the GM steps in and says, "If you really want to be silly about this and claim that you're always ready for a foe to attack you, then we're going to play every single bit of the game out in combat rounds. Roll initiative to see who gets to the outhouse first." :)


Xaratherus wrote:
Davick wrote:
A time penalty in a game where years can pass in minutes and seconds can take hours isn't much of a penalty to be an all seeing god.
Ah, but that's where the GM steps in and says, "If you really want to be silly about this and claim that you're always ready for a foe to attack you, then we're going to play every single bit of the game out in combat rounds. Roll initiative to see who gets to the outhouse first." :)

Or the GM gets in on the action and suddenly everyone you meet has a readied action, just in case. You walk into a tavern and everyone draws out their weapon, "Wait, false alarm. Ready up"


powerfamiliar wrote:
<long snip>...

If the guard was lying in wait, he should be getting a circumstance bonus on his perception rolls, but no matter. In your example the guard was surprised - which indicates that he was slacking off - he wasn't paying enough attention to notice the PCs behind the door he was covering.

You have a point, though, about how if everyone has surprise, and there is therefore no surprise round, they can take full actions before he can do anything.

There is a house rule that was suggested in the 3.5 DMG - that the first round of combat always be a surprise round, even if everyone can act. That way there is less time to obliterate an enemy before he can do anything at all. Perhaps using that rule would work for you.


Davick wrote:
Why wait for the door to open? What sort of penalty would the guy opening the door get for having the door in the way, versus what's the ad hoc bonus to the players for all the door noise and being expectant?

Huh?

Davick wrote:
To put it simply, it's all in the dice. You can't just say your character is going to do something and have that bypass rolling for stuff. Bonuses or penalties sure, but nothing is a sure thing in a game based on generating random numbers.

No, but the GM can. Some things are sure things, like who wins an arm wrestling contest. The guy that's stronger. Pretty simple.

If Group A is unaware of what's beyond a door, and begins battering it down, and Group B resides in the room beyond the door, hears the bashing, and intends to fire as soon as the door is opened, then Group B surprises Group A when the door is bashed open. No rolls needed.

If sometime before shattering the door, Group A becomes aware of Group B, then Group A is (generally) not surprised.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I interpret the rules this way:

Are the combatants aware of each other?

There is a difference between evidence and assumption - that difference is what allows a surprise round or not.

If the PCs are on the other side of the door and they kick it in, they get a surprise round on the monsters in the room, if the monsters are not aware of the PCs.

If the monsters are aware there are PCs on the other side of the door, but the PCs are not aware the monsters are there, the monsters get a surprise round.

If both the monsters and the PCs are aware of each other, once the door is kicked in, that is what regular initiative is for.

Readying an action doesn’t come into it. Being cautious doesn’t enter into it. The monster is being just as cautious as you are, unless there is a RP reason not to be.

If there is no awareness, there is no advantage. Even if your PC is saying, “Okay, here is a door. There might be monsters on the other side. Let’s get ready to attack when Bob kicks the door down,” Gergle the Troll is saying to his buddies, “Gergle hear stomping plate mail and magic casty spells coming from hallway. Attack when door is kicked in.” In that case, the PCs don’t know for sure that there are monsters in the room (they merely are aware that they are in a dungeon that might contain monsters in rooms), but the monsters know for sure that there are PCs in the hallway because they heard them – surprise round to monsters. Of course, if the PCs make a successful perception check at the door and hear the monsters, then everyone is aware of everyone and it becomes straight initiative.

My PCs usually don’t take precautions to make their presence a secret – stomping around in plate mail, kicking doors in, checking doors for traps and locks, smashing them down with repeated whacks with an axe, etc. So usually the monsters are aware of their presence and they rarely get surprise rounds.

To the original post, if there is a wizard standing in the middle of the room, not moving around, not saying anything, and heard you and your party fighting or whatnot, then yes, when you open the door, you will get a fireball to the face – he was aware of your presence and you were not aware of his.

Relevant rules:
"When a combat starts, if you are not aware of your opponents and they are aware of you, you're surprised.

Sometimes all the combatants on a side are aware of their opponents, sometimes none are, and sometimes only some of them are. Sometimes a few combatants on each side are aware and the other combatants on each side are unaware.

Determining awareness may call for Perception checks or other checks."


Bad Sintax, I agree. The important distinction is that what you are describing is a surprise round, not a readied action. Many GMs will refer to this "surprise attack" fireball as soon as the door is opened as a "readied action."


I am coming around to the idea that a Surprise Round, is probably the single best way to handle this dilemma


Tormsskull wrote:
Davick wrote:
Why wait for the door to open? What sort of penalty would the guy opening the door get for having the door in the way, versus what's the ad hoc bonus to the players for all the door noise and being expectant?

Huh?

Davick wrote:
To put it simply, it's all in the dice. You can't just say your character is going to do something and have that bypass rolling for stuff. Bonuses or penalties sure, but nothing is a sure thing in a game based on generating random numbers.

No, but the GM can. Some things are sure things, like who wins an arm wrestling contest. The guy that's stronger. Pretty simple.

If Group A is unaware of what's beyond a door, and begins battering it down, and Group B resides in the room beyond the door, hears the bashing, and intends to fire as soon as the door is opened, then Group B surprises Group A when the door is bashed open. No rolls needed.

If sometime before shattering the door, Group A becomes aware of Group B, then Group A is (generally) not surprised.

No rolls needed, except the initiative rolls. Because initiative comes before the surprise round. The enemies roll initiative, they just don't get to act in that surprise round.

If you're saying that the GM is allowed to change/break/ignore rules, then you're right but that doesn't really have anything to do when we're discussing Rules in the Rules Questions forum. The rules say that a character, no matter how unlikely to either happen or fail, is supposed to roll a perception check to notice stimuli. doesn't matter if the DC is -20 and the character has +20 or the opposite. According to the rules, it's a roll. Handwaving it doesn't negate its existence.

Think about how you phrased that, "Group B hears the bashing" well how do you know they heard it? That's a roll. Not really sure what the point was here.

Also, there is more to arm wrestling than muscles. Not to mention, in a game with strength scores, what do you do with a tie? Both guys pass out after so long? What if the stronger guy was drugged, or is having a bad day, skipped breakfast etc? It's ALL in the dice.


Davick wrote:
The rules say that a character, no matter how unlikely to either happen or fail, is supposed to roll a perception check to notice stimuli. doesn't matter if the DC is -20 and the character has +20 or the opposite. According to the rules, it's a roll. Handwaving it doesn't negate its existence.
CRB wrote:
When a combat starts, if you are not aware of your opponents and they are aware of you, you’re surprised. Sometimes all the combatants on a side are aware of their opponents, sometimes none are, and sometimes only some of them are. Sometimes a few combatants on each side are aware and the other combatants on each side are unaware. Determining awareness may call for Perception checks or other checks.

May, not must.

Davick wrote:
Think about how you phrased that, "Group B hears the bashing" well how do you know they heard it? That's a roll. Not really sure what the point was here.

"No roll" was referring to the fact that in the specified situation, the PCs do not get a Perception check to not be surprised. They simply are surprised because the other group is aware and prepared to act, and the PCs are unaware of the enemies.

Davick" wrote:
Also, there is more to arm wrestling than muscles. Not to mention, in a game with strength scores, what do you do with a tie? Both guys pass out after so long? What if the stronger guy was drugged, or is having a bad day, skipped breakfast etc? It's ALL in the dice.

Ok, please explain how you would adjudicate an arm wrestling contest between two people. For arguments sake, let's say Arm Wrestler #1 has an 18 strength, and Arm Wrestler #2 has a 14 strength. If you wish to explain what mechanical effect having a bad day or skipping breakfast would entail, I'd be interested in seeing that as well.

Shadow Lodge

powerfamiliar wrote:

I'm curious as to how this encounter should be played:

1. There's an crossbowman behind a secret door who is aware of the PCs on the other side of the door. He is ready to shoot the first person to come into the room.

As soon as a person about to enter the room could possibly detect the crossbowman, they are entitled to a Perception check. If they pass, roll initiative as normal. If they fail, the crossbowman get's a surprise round, then the victim gets to roll initiative.

powerfamiliar wrote:
2. Let's say 6-12 seconds pass and the PCs become aware of the door and using skills or magic become aware of the crossbowman waiting for them.

And? If there is nothing they could do to the crossbowman, they are not yet combatants. When the door is finally opened, roll initiative as normal, as both sides are aware of the other. It doesn't matter that the crossbowman doesn't know the characters are aware.

powerfamiliar wrote:
3. The PCs open the door are rush the crossbowman.

If the crossbowman is unaware, the PCs get a surprise round. If not, roll initiative as normal. Sure, he was "ready" to shoot, but his reflexes just weren't fast enough.

powerfamiliar wrote:

I think personally I declare "combat" starts as soon as crossbowman becomes aware of the PCs and grant him a surprise round. He uses his action to ready and continues to ready from that point on. As soon as the PCs become aware I ask for an initiative roll, but as soon as someone steps through the door the crossbowman gets his readied action.

Divination wizards and players with similar abilities should get some sort of warning. Spider senses tingling?

That seems needlessly complicated. Why not just drop into rounds as soon as one side could affect the other. The Diviner walks into the room and suddenly casts shield, just as a bolt flies out from the darkness. That sounds much better than, The Diviner gets a wiggy feeling while he waits 1d4 rounds for the rogue to pick the lock. Nothing happens until he walks into the room, where he is promptly shot.


Tormsskull wrote:
Davick wrote:
The rules say that a character, no matter how unlikely to either happen or fail, is supposed to roll a perception check to notice stimuli. doesn't matter if the DC is -20 and the character has +20 or the opposite. According to the rules, it's a roll. Handwaving it doesn't negate its existence.
CRB wrote:
When a combat starts, if you are not aware of your opponents and they are aware of you, you’re surprised. Sometimes all the combatants on a side are aware of their opponents, sometimes none are, and sometimes only some of them are. Sometimes a few combatants on each side are aware and the other combatants on each side are unaware. Determining awareness may call for Perception checks or other checks.

May, not must.

Davick wrote:
Think about how you phrased that, "Group B hears the bashing" well how do you know they heard it? That's a roll. Not really sure what the point was here.

"No roll" was referring to the fact that in the specified situation, the PCs do not get a Perception check to not be surprised. They simply are surprised because the other group is aware and prepared to act, and the PCs are unaware of the enemies.

Davick" wrote:
Also, there is more to arm wrestling than muscles. Not to mention, in a game with strength scores, what do you do with a tie? Both guys pass out after so long? What if the stronger guy was drugged, or is having a bad day, skipped breakfast etc? It's ALL in the dice.
Ok, please explain how you would adjudicate an arm wrestling contest between two people. For arguments sake, let's say Arm Wrestler #1 has an 18 strength, and Arm Wrestler #2 has a 14 strength. If you wish to explain what mechanical effect having a bad day or skipping breakfast would entail, I'd be interested in seeing that as well.

How do you determine if a group is aware of another group without perception? How do you determine when PCS are or are not aware of the enemies?

As for arm wrestling, let me ask you this: Have you ever had a bad day? Just because an event is unlikely does not make it impossible. Why are arm wrestling tournaments a thing even? If what you say is true, you could just see who can bench press more and then that person would HAVE to win an arm wrestling match right? And since STR is an abstraction, you could even test who could leg press more, because it's still the same stat in pathfinder. If only we had some way to account for all these differentials. I recommend dice.


Most DM's are just cheatin.

Its amazing given the importance of how you look and determine surprise and start combat that there are almost no rules on it.

This is how I do it.

The person opening the door Goes first/last. Thats their entire action. Break and open standard and move

You have held actions, they have held actions, its a mulligan. Roll initiative and FIGHT!


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

There are lot's of rules on 'it'...

It's understanding how surprise and perception work.

You can only 'Ready' an action as a Standard Action - this only occurs in combat. (That bit is RAW and very clear).

Lot's of actions can start a combat; casting in front of an NPC, throwing down a glove, stealing from a shopkeeper, opening a door.

The key similarity in all the situations is awareness;
Are each group aware of each other?

If your PC 'knows' a bad guy is behind the door (and the GM has rolled poorly for the perception of the guard behind the door) the the PC's would get a surprise round on the Guard who is surprised (in PC initiative order). Next we add the guards initiative to the order and everyone goes again.


Mystic Lemur wrote:
powerfamiliar wrote:

I'm curious as to how this encounter should be played:

1. There's an crossbowman behind a secret door who is aware of the PCs on the other side of the door. He is ready to shoot the first person to come into the room.

As soon as a person about to enter the room could possibly detect the crossbowman, they are entitled to a Perception check. If they pass, roll initiative as normal. If they fail, the crossbowman get's a surprise round, then the victim gets to roll initiative.

powerfamiliar wrote:
2. Let's say 6-12 seconds pass and the PCs become aware of the door and using skills or magic become aware of the crossbowman waiting for them.

And? If there is nothing they could do to the crossbowman, they are not yet combatants. When the door is finally opened, roll initiative as normal, as both sides are aware of the other. It doesn't matter that the crossbowman doesn't know the characters are aware.

powerfamiliar wrote:
3. The PCs open the door are rush the crossbowman.

If the crossbowman is unaware, the PCs get a surprise round. If not, roll initiative as normal. Sure, he was "ready" to shoot, but his reflexes just weren't fast enough.

powerfamiliar wrote:

I think personally I declare "combat" starts as soon as crossbowman becomes aware of the PCs and grant him a surprise round. He uses his action to ready and continues to ready from that point on. As soon as the PCs become aware I ask for an initiative roll, but as soon as someone steps through the door the crossbowman gets his readied action.

Divination wizards and players with similar abilities should get some sort of warning. Spider senses tingling?

That seems needlessly complicated. Why not just drop into rounds as soon as one side could affect the other. The Diviner walks into the room and suddenly casts shield, just as a bolt flies out from the darkness. That sounds much better than, The Diviner gets a wiggy feeling while he waits 1d4 rounds for the rogue to pick the lock....

The rules as written just really break my suspension of disbelief. It just seems like preparing yourself for a situation doesn't help you much when the situation comes up.

This situation that makes me uncomfortable. There's a criminal with a gun inside a room guarding the door, there's 10 cops outside. All aware of each other. We roll initiative. How I want the rules to work is that the cops should definitely win, but if they just rush the room the criminal has a good chance (say at least 50/50) to get at least one shot off before he is taken down. With the rules as is if the first cop to have a chance to act just rushes the room he has an incredibly high probability of not only acting before the criminal, but catching him flat footed. He has I think about a 6-7% chance to get a shot off if everyone has the same initiative mod.


Xaratherus wrote:
The Morphling wrote:

Interesting how little actual rules have come up in this discussion. I was asking a rules question, after all. So far the rules support the side of "yes, you can ready an action outside of combat" (The 3.5 DMG doesn't count :P) while most people seem to be in favor of changing that.

It's an excellent topic for discussion, just not quite what I had asked about. It's for PFS, so "this would be a good idea for your game" or "I would run it this way" doesn't really help. I'm looking for hard rules.

I disagree that the rules support what you've said at all, actually. Every mention of readying an action - from taking a standard action, to moving your place in the initiative order - relates to rules governing combat, not social and non-combat situations.

Thus far I've found no mechanical statement in the book indicating that readying an action occurs outside of combat; what rules can you provide supporting your point?

[edit]
Actually, I just found a very clear statement that readying an action can only occur during combat. Check the first line in the Combat section entitled Special Initiative Actions - the heading under which Ready action appears:

Combat - Special Initiative Actions wrote:
Here are ways to change when you act during combat by altering your place in the initiative order.
Go back to the start of the section, and you'll see that combat is defined as the cyclical series of rounds and turns that occur in order of initiative.

Solved.

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