Readying an action outside of combat


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Shadow Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I've repeatedly seen many different GMs run this completely differently. Over and over, I've stepped into a room and been hit by a fireball or a glitterdust or an arrow from a "readied action" before initiative is even rolled, but then told that when I readied an action to shoot the first hostile I see when the door is opened, that "you can't ready an action outside of combat."

Is there any justification for this in the rules? I've never seen a single ruling that says you can't ready an action outside of combat.


This has come up several times in my GMing. Can I give you my take on it?

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

You can ready an action outside of combat, that's frankly all there is to it.

Dark Archive

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Sounds like a surprise round.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
The Morphling wrote:

I've repeatedly seen many different GMs run this completely differently. Over and over, I've stepped into a room and been hit by a fireball or a glitterdust or an arrow from a "readied action" before initiative is even rolled, but then told that when I readied an action to shoot the first hostile I see when the door is opened, that "you can't ready an action outside of combat."

Is there any justification for this in the rules? I've never seen a single ruling that says you can't ready an action outside of combat.

That's not the problem. You have to find a rule that says YOU CAN. The only way you can have a readied action outside of combat that's established is when you're the ambushing party and you are in a stationary sniping position. You can't ready, move and still maintain a readied stance.

So yes, you will be ambushed going into rooms on the occasion. That's the defender's home field advantage.

Shadow Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Generic Dungeon Master wrote:
This has come up several times in my GMing. Can I give you my take on it?

'Tis why I have made a thread asking for input on these forums. :)

LazarX wrote:
That's not the problem. You have to find a rule that says YOU CAN.

Not really. The rules say you can ready an action. It doesn't need to list every circumstance where you can. "You can ready an action. This can occur on the first round of combat. It can also occur on the second round of combat. It can occur while outdoors. It can occur while indoors. It can occur for male characters. It can occur for female characters." etc.

Unless an action is stated as being restricted to only certain specific situations, it's assumed to be available at any time.

LazarX wrote:

That's not the problem. You have to find a rule that says YOU CAN. The only way you can have a readied action outside of combat that's established is when you're the ambushing party and you are in a stationary sniping position. You can't ready, move and still maintain a readied stance.

So yes, you will be ambushed going into rooms on the occasion. That's the defender's home field advantage.

So I'm right - I can ready an action to shoot the first monster I see when the door is opened by the fighter. Gotcha.


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There is no definitive explanation for how characters behave outside of “encounters” (outside of acting in concordance with the rules for selecting actions to take when your turn in Initiative Order occurs).

Readying an Action is defined as something you do as a “Standard Action” so, assuming you are allowed to take a Standard Action (which you can, in my opinion, at any time) you can, therefore, have a readied Action outside of an Encounter.

But!

The specifics for how a Readied Action are dealt with, in my opinion also, are often poorly applied.

Specifically you must declare what the Ready Action will be (Standard, Move, Swift, or Free) and the conditions under which you will take it.

And therein, again in my opinion, is where things break down.

I do not allow players to do this, “I am going to ready a Standard Action to cast Magic Missile as soon as I encounter something that looks threatening.”

But I do allow players to do this, “Okay, we are outside of a stuck door, and I think I hear something on the other side. The GM hasn’t asked us to roll initiative, but here is what I want to do. I want to ask Balindur to kick open the door, and I will stand five feet from the door, ready to cast Magic Missile, if anything attacks us when the door is opened.”

I do not, normally, allow players to just have an action, of any kind, “Readied” in the event I might ask them to roll initiative, which just seems like Metagaming at its worst. I do allow players to ask me, outside of an encounter, if they can ready an action because there are clues that something is about to go down, and they are specific about what they expect might happen and what will trigger them to act.


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I have to agree with Happler - it would effectively be a surprise round, not a readied action.

Just to note, in 3.5 the DMG states (page 26): "Don't allow players to use the ready action outside of combat." All of the references to readying an action in Pathfinder are made in the sections detailing combat and round-based play; to me that roughly indicates that the intent of the 3.5 statement probably carries over, even if the text didn't.

In the example above where you 'ready' to fire at the first thing that comes through the door, the creature walking through the door would get a Perception check to notice you. If it failed, you'd all roll initiative and you would get a surprise round, then you'd go into standard initiative order.

To be honest, handling it like a surprise round could be more effective for certain classes, because it'd guarantee any sneak attack class would get extra damage on his surprise round attack.


Well... What is good for the Gander is good for the Goose.
The GM is allowing his monsters to ready outside of combat, so why can't you? Ask him to explain how they get to ready an action that way and then ask what it would take for you to do the same thing.

Personally I would allow either a readyed action and/or surprise round, but not both before combat.

I can easily see situations where you can ready an action outside of combat.
"you hear the sound of footsteps coming towards the door of the room you are in"; "I ready an action to shoot the first creature to come through the door" is perfectly viable for me.

"you hear the sound of footsteps coming towards the door of the room you are in"; "I hide to get a surprise round on whoever steps through the door" is also perfectly viable for me.

The strength of stealthing to get a surprise round is that you get to judge whether or not to actually attack the creature coming through the door or to simply reveal yourself or to stay hidden. The weakness of stealthing is that you accept that the creature has a chance to get a surprise round too by spotting you. With the readied action I would call for a wisdom check or something similar to stop yourself from performing the readied action if you suddenly didn't want to do it... "The creature coming through the door is the Princess that you are here to save" ; "I fail the wisdom check and accidentally shoot and wound the Princess".


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Happler wrote:
Sounds like a surprise round.

This.


I would say that you cannot ready an action outside combat if you by that meen than it gives you the initiative advance.
You can ready an action and then when you or some one else initiate hostilities you check perception for surprise rounds and roll initiative as normal.


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Alters your place in the initiative order. Without an initiative order to alter, it isn't an available action in my opinion.

I'm also on the "it would be a surprise round" side of this.


Lifat wrote:


With the readied action I would call for a wisdom check or something similar to stop yourself from performing the readied action if you suddenly didn't want to do it... "The creature coming through the door is the Princess that you are here to save" ; "I fail the wisdom check and accidentally shoot and wound the Princess".

This can be good for some role-play sometimes, but is not in accordance with how readied actions work.

When the triggering condition occurs the player with the readied action MAY take their action, not MUST take their action. Similar to if someone provokes an AoO there is no requirement that all adjacent threatening creatures are required to take an AoO.

In general I would allow readied actions outside of combat - really anything that can be done in combat can be done outside of combat. But I would not allow very generic out of combat readied actions such as 'When Bob opens the door I shoot the first bad guy I see inside' - initiative needs to take place in initiative order in the first round in this kind of scenario. You get a high init (or surprise round) and you can take your actions before the bad guy. But since you don't know what the room beyond looks like till after the door is open, saying you will ready a very generic action as a catch all...


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I understood to 'ready' required a Standard Action and actions don't actually occur outside of combat.

Surprise rounds are tricky beasts, they come down to which side is aware of each other. If the party 'knows' there are bad guys behind the door then there is nothing wrong with using the surprise round to ready an action (or even sneaking back down the hall and preparing buffs). Not all situations lend themselves to ambushes though and it can be fun to play them out.


I think it really depends on the situation. Combat doesn't necessary start with the GM telling everyone to roll initiative. No cool music kicks into play when a combat starts.

As such, if there are enemies in the next room, and the PC group is unaware of the enemies and trying to bash the door down, I think it should be treated as a surprise round with the PCs automatically surprised.

The enemies know that something is there, they plan to shoot as soon as the door is opened. Having to roll initiative and then making it where the PCs might actually win the initiative and act first seems incredibly implausible.

PCs should be able to do the exact same thing. If the PC group is holed up in a room, and they hear something pounding on the door, they should be able to prepare and automatically get the first surprise round with the breaker of the door surprised.

If both sides are aware of one another, I would treat it like actual combat rounds. The PC group is trying to break down the door, the enemies are readying actions to fire as soon as the door is broke down. But the PCs have to actually know that there are enemies in the next room to be aware, not just "I'm cautious so I assume there are monsters everywhere."


Happler wrote:
Sounds like a surprise round.

A single standard or move action that you can take to interrupt whatever it is the enemy is doing because you were waiting for them? Yep, a readied action outside of combat is a surprise round. Even better, you can do a restricted charge on a surprise round, but not with a ready. So it's better for you that way.


Tormsskull wrote:
If both sides are aware of one another, I would treat it like actual combat rounds.

This. Combat starts when (potentially) hostile targets are aware of the other. Sometimes only one side is aware of the other.

If you are aware of an ogre about to come through a door, but he isn't, you can ready an ambush - and get a surprise round. If the ogre is aware of you, you should roll initiative. Combat has started, you can't just see each other yet.

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

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.


bbangerter wrote:
Lifat wrote:


With the readied action I would call for a wisdom check or something similar to stop yourself from performing the readied action if you suddenly didn't want to do it... "The creature coming through the door is the Princess that you are here to save" ; "I fail the wisdom check and accidentally shoot and wound the Princess".

This can be good for some role-play sometimes, but is not in accordance with how readied actions work.

When the triggering condition occurs the player with the readied action MAY take their action, not MUST take their action. Similar to if someone provokes an AoO there is no requirement that all adjacent threatening creatures are required to take an AoO.

In general I would allow readied actions outside of combat - really anything that can be done in combat can be done outside of combat. But I would not allow very generic out of combat readied actions such as 'When Bob opens the door I shoot the first bad guy I see inside' - initiative needs to take place in initiative order in the first round in this kind of scenario. You get a high init (or surprise round) and you can take your actions before the bad guy. But since you don't know what the room beyond looks like till after the door is open, saying you will ready a very generic action as a catch all...

Please don't misunderstand me. I would never claim that it was RAW. This was how I might run it, if my players thought it was cool too. But to be fair to myself, I actually think my previous post was reasonably clear that I was in fact not talking about RAW (or even RAI).

On the subject of hard RAW calls I think you will be very hard pressed to find a clear one-sided answer. The rules don't specify that you have to be in combat to ready an action though, which as far as I can see suggests that you should be able to.


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.

At what point in a game are you aware of an enemy you want to ready an action against, but are not in initiative combat with? Combat begins when one or more combatants are Aware of an enemy's presence. That's when initiative is rolled.

Just because a door is between you and an enemy you are aware of doesn't mean you don't roll initiative.


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.


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.

So we can deduce that readied actions require an initiative. Combat requires initiative (this is step one). I am unaware of anyway to gain an initiative without a combat. So to ready an action, you must be in combat. The only thing in question is what dictates a "combat situation". A combat situation cannot require that all combatants be aware of each other, as this is the foundation of a surprise round. A surprise round happens before anything else in combat (except initiative, which doesn't really "happen"). The first opportunity then to ready an action is during the surprise round. But, if the idea is to get the jump on the opponent, well, use the surprise round for that. Still, we were determining when a combat begins. Perception checks are "reactive, made in response to stimuli". It is thus implied perception checks are "not an action." This means that if a group of adventurers are laying in wait for an enemy, they are entitled to make perception checks at any point when the enemy provides stimuli, such as talking to one another, bumbling about, or opening the door to where the adventurers are hiding. Any of these checks should allow the adventurer combatants to be aware of their enemies before they are themselves noticed. This would dictate a "combat situation" and allow the adventurers a surprise round, and if they wanted to they could use it to ready an action. Keep in mind, that if they adventurers provide stimuli, such as coughing, moving, stinking, or in the event they are seen, then the enemy would also be entitled to reactionary perception checks. So then the real question is does the use of stealth require a move action (which could be taken outside of combat since it is not a special initiative action)?


Quote:
So then the real question is does the use of stealth require a move action (which could be taken outside of combat since it is not a special initiative action)?

Outside of combat? Not generally, no. It's just something you're doing. You could have previously found a good hiding spot among some rocks, and made a check that anyone passing nearby would roll against. If you're actually moving, that would be done as part of the move.


Bizbag wrote:
Quote:
So then the real question is does the use of stealth require a move action (which could be taken outside of combat since it is not a special initiative action)?
Outside of combat? Not generally, no. It's just something you're doing. You could have previously found a good hiding spot among some rocks, and made a check that anyone passing nearby would roll against. If you're actually moving, that would be done as part of the move.

The issue arises because stealth lists its action as "Usually none. Normally, you make a Stealth check as part of movement, so it doesn't take a separate action. However, using Stealth immediately after a ranged attack (see Sniping, above) is a move action."

So is that a binary condition for normalcy? Either as part of movement or sniping, or is it nonexhaustive and can be done in other scenarios? I didn't mean to sidetrack into that actual question as I don't think it's too pertinent here.


The Morphling wrote:
I'm looking for hard rules.

There are no hard rules on it, else they would have already been quoted. Your best option is to talk to your PFS GM's, VC's, whatever.

From a personal perspective I maintain that you can ready actions outside of combat, but that there just isn't any real point to doing so (someone might come up with a scenario where it makes sense). But it is certainly beyond the intent of the rules to allow you to use a out of combat readied action to finagle the initiative order at the start of a combat to gain an advantage.

Dark Archive

I'd imagine if you're aware of it and the rest of the party isn't, there's no reason they should all act in the surprise round you are initiating. It's kind of silly to think that you can't go, "I hear an orc. I think I will nock this arrow and pop it when it comes around the corner." Now the logical thing to do would be to whisper to the rest of the group, thereby allowing you to orchestrate a ambush in this example. But again, that isn't always a option. I cannot cite any rules for you, the OP, that say one way or the other; I can, however, say that it's pretty stupid if you can't ready an action to pop the first thing you see after your party fighter kicks down a door. If nothing else, I'd say ask your GM to allow the party to roll initiative as they are officially entering combat -- one does not need to have be engaged to be considered "still in initiative" or "entering initiative" per RAW. This will provide you with clear cause (and limit or remove the GM's ability to argue against it) to ready an action regardless.

Alternatively it could simply be that he doesn't want the party to be able to score surprise rounds against the enemies. If that's the case, you'll need to ask him why he is not allowing the party to engage in similar tactics in situations where there is absolutely nothing preventing it.

Shadow Lodge

If you open the door to be greeted by a fireball then you must have done something to make the bad guy aware of you before you were aware of them. That's a surprise round.

If you were invisible, silenced, and had nondetection up and running, making stealth checks to avoid detection until the last possible moment when you slipped quietly into the room to be greeted by a fireball, then you must have done something to make the GM mad at you. :D

Scarab Sages

Two groups of adventurers, lets says Pathfinders and Aspis Agents are standing at opposite sides of a door (that slides up to open, maybe one or both sides have realized this), both groups have people that heard something from behind the door, a couple or a few on each side ready actions, others don't. The door is opened simultaneously by both rogues (unaware the other was working to open the door, or maybe that's how the door works and they simply did not realize it). Who goes first?

I say you roll (perceptions for surprise if they were unaware of something behind the door), initiative, "readied" actions go off on that PC's initiative count. A GM might feel the desire to award a circumstance bonus in some situations, ok, I might give the archer a +1 bonus for nocking the arrow and crouching (if they realized the door opens up). I would not simply grant a character or npc the first action in a combat due to a readied action, except in some extreme case.


Davick wrote:
So is that a binary condition for normalcy? Either as part of movement or sniping, or is it nonexhaustive and can be done in other scenarios? I didn't mean to sidetrack into that actual question as I don't think it's too pertinent here.

The Action text refers to using the skill during combat. During combat, you make your stealth rolls either as part of your movement to stay quiet and hidden, or you make it when you pick a hiding place and conceal yourself.

Technically speaking, if you are sneaking around, and notice an enemy who does not detect you yet, the GM should call for initiative. Most of the time they won't, unless you initiate combat. Further, they won't do the same if a creature is sneaking around and detects you - rolling initiative is a giant red flag for a player, even the best in-character-only players.

Still, requiring initiative for a stealth section can be fun - I am planning one for my players now, inspired partially by those sections in Zelda games where you evade guards. That is, they'll have to sneak from cover to cover before the patrolling guard turns around and walks back - and since they can move a set speed per round, it may work nicely.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Readied actions require initiative. To do something against an unaware opposing force is a surprise round.

Any hypothetical "readied action" that goes off in what is otherwise a surprise round would count as your standard action within the surprise round, resetting your initiative to someplace in the surprise round. In theory, you should be rolling initiative by now if you haven't already, and this would determine what initiative marker you would be acting at in future rounds, as you just acted on that initiative count. After that, you have no further actions until the next turn...which is round 1 of normal combat!

Anything else is initiative. If two creatures wander into each other, the moment they spot each other and decide to fight, initiative must be rolled. It may not matter much until they cross the 500 feet of open field between them and we figure out who takes the fateful step to be within charging range of the other, but it gets rolled!

As for the "monster on teh other side of the door" examples, consider this. You hear monsters on the other side of a door, and ready an attack to fire through the door at hostile creatures. That's a great setup for a surprise round...assuming it's a surprise round! Suppose at the same time, the party of orcs on the other side of the door heard some noisy adventurers! And they readied actions to attack them as soon as one of them openned the door. Whose readied action goes first? You can't tell without....rolling initiative! Moreover, this creates a situation where both sides are well aware of each other, meaning there should not be a surprise round, and somehow an effective surprise round happens where everyone takes a standard action and waits for the next round to start, since after taking their readied action they cannot act in that round of combat.

As such, without any other rule about readied actions, readied actions outside of combat make no sense. Either they consume your standard action for the surprise round and normal combat ensues, or they cannot be resolved without rolling initiative anyway.

As to stealth, as long as you take no actions and a lot of time doesn't pass, you should only require one stealth check. Since the enemies are not aware of you, there is no initiative to roll. The moment you act against them, you hae initiated a surprise round, get 1 standard action, initiative is rolled as both sides are aware of each other, and normal combat ensues.


Here are the hard rules :

PRD wrote:
Action: An action is a discrete measurement of time during a round of combat. Using abilities, casting spells, and making attacks all require actions to perform. There are a number of different kinds of actions, such as a standard action, move action, swift action, free action, and full-round action (see Combat).

General RAW definition of an 'action'.

PRD Ready wrote:
The ready action lets you prepare to take an action later, after your turn is over but before your next one has begun. Readying is a standard action.

By RAW you cannot ready an action. Everything that starts outside of a combat is ruled by a surprise round.

Silver Crusade

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Eridan wrote:

Here are the hard rules :

PRD wrote:
Action: An action is a discrete measurement of time during a round of combat. Using abilities, casting spells, and making attacks all require actions to perform. There are a number of different kinds of actions, such as a standard action, move action, swift action, free action, and full-round action (see Combat).

General RAW definition of an 'action'.

PRD Ready wrote:
The ready action lets you prepare to take an action later, after your turn is over but before your next one has begun. Readying is a standard action.
By RAW you cannot ready an action. Everything that starts outside of a combat is ruled by a surprise round.

That logic is terrible.

"Using my paladin's lay on hands on another person is a standard action. But actions are only allowed in combat! We better start fighting something so I can heal you guys!"

Players do things that require "actions" all the time out of combat.


Hrothdane wrote:


Players do things that require "actions" all the time out of combat.

Correct and you roll initiative as soons as there is an unfriendly NPC (enemy) involved in the action.

Running through a group of friendly commoner. No initiative.
Running through a group of evil orcs. Roll initiative and get AoOs (another combat only 'action')
Cast a spell during a party in your local tavern. No initiative.
Cast a spell during a parley with evil orcs. Roll initiative.

Some actions require combat under some circumstances and some not.

The example 'ready an attack against something behind a door' is fully covered by RAW with the 'Surprise Round'

Quote:

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.

In a surprise round you can ready actions .. because it is combat.


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I keep telling myself to not come into the rules forums. Why don't I listen?

The world doesn't magically change into a turn-based game when initiative starts. Is it that hard to imagine a person watching a door with a bow drawn and ready to attack a potential threat coming through? Sure, you could technically start initiative beforehand, but that could be tedious. A surprise round works, but unless the person coming through the door has a reason to be on the lookout, they shouldn't have a chance to surprise the surpriser (though I suppose you could count the opening of the door as their action in the round).

The rules are there to emulate and guide actions in the world, not restrict them into some kind of video game.


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Quote:
Is it that hard to imagine a person watching a door with a bow drawn and ready to attack a potential threat coming through?

No it is a good example of a situation that is covered by RAW via the surprise round rules.

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.

Readying an action outside of combat that leads to combat is called 'surprise round'. Otherwise there is no need for a surprise round because setting up a surprise situation is always bound to readied actions.

Bend the rules as you like. Some play PF like a tactical board game, other more like a storytelling game. My table plays in the middle but here we are in the rules board :)

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Eridan wrote:
Quote:
Is it that hard to imagine a person watching a door with a bow drawn and ready to attack a potential threat coming through?

No it is a good example of a situation that is covered by RAW via the surprise round rules.

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.

Readying an action outside of combat that leads to combat is called 'surprise round'. Otherwise there is no need for a surprise round because setting up a surprise situation is always bound to readied actions.

Bend the rules as you like. Some play PF like a tactical board game, other more like a storytelling game. My table plays in the middle but here we are in the rules board :)

This pretty much goes with what I said earlier. Any standard action you take to begin a combat, such as the one triggered by your readied action, ends up becoming your standard action for the surprise round since it occurs in the surprise round. Your initiative count resets to something insie the surprise round, you don't act until that point in the next round, which is round 1 of normal combat!

Or you could play as intended and say the readied action is just a surprise round.


MrCab wrote:
Eridan wrote:
Quote:
Is it that hard to imagine a person watching a door with a bow drawn and ready to attack a potential threat coming through?

No it is a good example of a situation that is covered by RAW via the surprise round rules.

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.

Readying an action outside of combat that leads to combat is called 'surprise round'. Otherwise there is no need for a surprise round because setting up a surprise situation is always bound to readied actions.

Bend the rules as you like. Some play PF like a tactical board game, other more like a storytelling game. My table plays in the middle but here we are in the rules board :)

This pretty much goes with what I said earlier. Any standard action you take to begin a combat, such as the one triggered by your readied action, ends up becoming your standard action for the surprise round since it occurs in the surprise round. Your initiative count resets to something insie the surprise round, you don't act until that point in the next round, which is round 1 of normal combat!

Or you could play as intended and say the readied action is just a surprise round.

This is basically how I run it. Recently my PCs were storming a fort of goblins, and when they got their, the only door was barricaded from the inside. The alarm had been raised, the goblins knew the attack was coming, and the PCs were basically attempting to ram down the (heavy wooden) door with their shoulders. When that didn't work, they just started hacking away with axes and swords.

Well, it was obvious at this point the whole fort knew the PCs had arrived. Eight goblins set up inside the door, waiting for the PCs to break through so they could attack. At this point, there's really no element of surprise (though it could be argued thast the PCs, if they were really not thinking, would be surprised by the welcoming party).

Anyway, the party rogue (actually wiz 2/rogue 2) says he wants to step back, nock an arrow, and get ready to shoot the first goblin he can see once the door is down. I was okay with this. What he didn't know is that there were several goblins inside with the same idea. Now, this rogue, having wiz levels, had taken the divination school which means he always gets an action in the surprise round (if there is one). I treat this kind of like a "spidey sense" as far as how it works -- he gets to sense if there is impending danger (a surprise attack) and act accordingly (in order of initiative).

Of course, in this situation, there's really no element of surprise. So what happened? The door was bashed in, and we rolled initiative. The few goblins who had readied their attacks fired arrows, in order of initiative, during the surprise round. The party rogue then took his action, in order of initiative, during the surprise round. Since they were the only ones who had "readied" actions (despite being not technically readied, per the rules, since you can only ready an action IN COMBAT), they got to act during the de facto surprise round. I say de facto because it was treated as such, but there was no actual element of surprise nor was there any chance to make perception checks to enter the surprise round.


So as it stands, there are rules indicating that readied actions only occur within combat, which by extension requires an initiative count. So far I have not seen any rules quotes from outside the context of combat regarding readying actions. Does anyone have any such rules quotes?


It is plain that for the vast majority of situations, using/calling-for a surprise round is the superior choice. By the rules, you should use a surprise round anytime there are combatants that are not aware.

However, there are some occasions where an 'out-of-combat' readied action simply makes more sense - sometimes in conjunction with a surprise round. Some examples:

  • Heightened awareness, not in combat: This is the "the monster fireballs as soon as the door is opened" sort of situation. When a creature is aware that combat is imminent and guarding a small entrance. It becomes an open question as to whether combat has started or not. Does it make sense to allow a poor initiative roll to give a group opening the door the opportunity to obliterate the defender?
  • Readied order of actions: This is where the group is ambushing, but they want, say, the wizard to go first and cast haste or fireball. They are getting a surprise round, but without allowing a readied action they would all have to delay until after the wizard, penalizing them (potentially) in the following combat round. This could be a situation like the above: "As soon as the door opens, fireball, then everyone rushes in!"

I suppose the key is that sometimes combat starts earlier than it seems to, due to awareness of danger.

Again though, most of the time, "Hey - shouldn't we get a surprise round?" is the better tactic.


Majuba wrote:

It is plain that for the vast majority of situations, using/calling-for a surprise round is the superior choice. By the rules, you should use a surprise round anytime there are combatants that are not aware.

However, there are some occasions where an 'out-of-combat' readied action simply makes more sense - sometimes in conjunction with a surprise round. Some examples:

  • Heightened awareness, not in combat: This is the "the monster fireballs as soon as the door is opened" sort of situation. When a creature is aware that combat is imminent and guarding a small entrance. It becomes an open question as to whether combat has started or not. Does it make sense to allow a poor initiative roll to give a group opening the door the opportunity to obliterate the defender?
  • Readied order of actions: This is where the group is ambushing, but they want, say, the wizard to go first and cast haste or fireball. They are getting a surprise round, but without allowing a readied action they would all have to delay until after the wizard, penalizing them (potentially) in the following combat round. This could be a situation like the above: "As soon as the door opens, fireball, then everyone rushes in!"

I suppose the key is that sometimes combat starts earlier than it seems to, due to awareness of danger.

Again though, most of the time, "Hey - shouldn't we get a surprise round?" is the better tactic.

In the first example, either the enemy issues his surprise round to ready foe when the door actually opens or opening the door counts as the adventurers limited action. Or both. In either case, a surprise round works.

In the second, what is the wizards initiative in the example? If he is going first, it SHOULD be higher than his allies'. Otherwise you're penalizing the enemies by letting the wizard cheat his initiative. Not to mention, its not like characters are sitting combat saying,"Dang I wish I could do something before Fizbang acts again." Its an abstraction not a penalty.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Majuba wrote:

It is plain that for the vast majority of situations, using/calling-for a surprise round is the superior choice. By the rules, you should use a surprise round anytime there are combatants that are not aware.

However, there are some occasions where an 'out-of-combat' readied action simply makes more sense - sometimes in conjunction with a surprise round. Some examples:

  • Heightened awareness, not in combat: This is the "the monster fireballs as soon as the door is opened" sort of situation. When a creature is aware that combat is imminent and guarding a small entrance. It becomes an open question as to whether combat has started or not. Does it make sense to allow a poor initiative roll to give a group opening the door the opportunity to obliterate the defender?
  • Readied order of actions: This is where the group is ambushing, but they want, say, the wizard to go first and cast haste or fireball. They are getting a surprise round, but without allowing a readied action they would all have to delay until after the wizard, penalizing them (potentially) in the following combat round. This could be a situation like the above: "As soon as the door opens, fireball, then everyone rushes in!"

I suppose the key is that sometimes combat starts earlier than it seems to, due to awareness of danger.

Again though, most of the time, "Hey - shouldn't we get a surprise round?" is the better tactic.

The question of when does it roll initiative is handled by perception checks. Are the combatants aware of each other? More over, are the combatants aware that they are combatants? Both are covered by perception rolls. Whether it is stealth for moving through the tall grass, holding your breath on teh other side of the door so there's nothing to hear, or a slight of hand check for your assassination target to not notice you just pulled a dagger our of your sleeve. In all three cases, if the stealthy person succeeds, they get a surprise round. If the perception checks succeed, they are aware of danger and imeiately move to defend themselves. Can they react in time? I don't know, bu their initiative rolls do.

In the first case, to say the defender deserves an advantage is determined entirely by stealthy skills and perception. To say otherwise is to allow the party to claim they are always expecting an ambush and should never be surprised. That isn't to say that a party running around a corner not listening for the presence of a quiet gaurd won't alert the gaurd to unexpected guests who will then get a surprise round once the unaware PCs turn the corner. But if they gain awareness of each other, initiative should begin. Even if the guard knows the enemies are coming, giving him a surprise round for no other reason than he's a guard should give the PC that stays up on watch every night a surprise round for the same reason of "I'm expecting an ambush", which is definitely not allowed. So yes, a poor initiative roll by the defender means he is doomed if both sides are aware of each other.

Even if they don't immediately engage one another, awareness can limit the amount of spell casting that can happen before one side gets tired of waiting and attacks. That group or orcs isn't going to sit there while you cast bulls strength, haste, barkskin, and enlarge person each on 5 people over 16 rounds. To say initiative HASN'T started once they gain awareness can give sides an advantage if nobody is tracking spell casting time, even if the door between them isn't open yet.

In the second case, it sucks to wait for the wizard, but thems the rules. Initiative is an abstration of reaction time. If the wizard is slow to react to his opening, and the players are waiting for him to react...well, the dice were against you that day.

Just remember, the monsters have the same problem when they ambush the party.


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.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
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.

RAW No.

You can't ready an action out of combat, to be 'readied' requires a standard action. You'll find the reference in the Actions in Combat table in the CRB under Standard Action.

Sczarni

Starfinder Charter Superscriber

When I GM in PFS I do not allow readied actions outside of combat.

Although I was operating without the knowledge that you can't anyways, my reasoning was that if both sides were readying to act, you'd need an initiative order to determine who's readied action went off first.

Bad guys set up an ambush, and ready to shoot when the door opens.
PCs are expecting an ambush, and ready to shoot when the door opens.
Who goes first? Roll initiative!

I'm glad I've been running it right the whole time =D


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Yep, it only gets messy when the party is split...


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.

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.

3. The PCs open the door are rush the crossbowman.

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 hit readied action.

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


You can clearly take "actions" outside of combat (casting non-combat spells, for example) it's just not relevant to track each action on that scale in most situations. ("Round one, I take a double-move action on the trail to Sandpoint. Round two, same thing. Round three..."). You could ready an action such as "shoot whatever comes through that door" but you have to sit there and hold the action until something does come through the door, or else lose your readied action.

You would, for practical purposes, only do this if you already knew there was somebody coming. So it's (potentially at least) a surprise round situation.

(*If you were undead or a construct I guess you could sit there holding the action indefinitely)


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
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.

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.

3. The PCs open the door are rush the crossbowman.

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 hit readied action.

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

Diviners get a bonus to their Initiative (and some always get the chance to act in surprise rounds).

As the PC's open the door the combat begins - there is no surprise round as each 'party' is aware of each other. The crossbowman may be laying in wait - but how quick he can fire depends on his place in the order. Maybe his muscles have seized from holding the position, maybe he sneezes at the wrong moement...


lastblacknight 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.

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.

3. The PCs open the door are rush the crossbowman.

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 hit readied action.

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

Diviners get a bonus to their Initiative (and some always get the chance to act in surprise rounds).

As the PC's open the door the combat begins - there is no surprise round as each 'party' is aware of each other. The crossbowman may be laying in wait - but how quick he can fire depends on his place in the order. Maybe his muscles have seized from holding the position, maybe he sneezes at the wrong moement...

My problem with this is the likelihood that a guard guarding a door will let someone past is way too high, and breaks my verisimilitude.

Running the math quickly using the level 1 PCs from the NPC codex against a guard from the NPC Codex.
PC initiatives:
Rogue: +7
Fighter: +2
Cleric: +1
Sorcerer: +2 (NPC codex wizard has Improved Init so I used sorc instead)
vs
Recruit: +0 (Wanted to use guard, but NPC codex guard has -1 init)

The guard beats the rogue initiative about 20% of the time, the fighter's about 40, the cleric's 44, a the sorcerer's about 40. So against this party the guard guarding the door will let at least one person thru the door before reacting about 98-99 % of the time. (The guard has .2 x .4 x .4 x .44 chance of beating all four party members initiative).

Even if you give all four party members and initiative of +0 the guard guarding the door will let someone walk up to him and stab him before reacting about 94% of the time!

Even if you give the guard improved initiative and reduce all the party members initiative to +0 the guard will let someone thru the door before reacting about 75% of the time.

Edit: Just realized that my math assumes the guard rolls off against each party member, but really he only rolls once and then compares against all the PCs. Going to try and rerun the math in that scenario.

Second edit: Math changes are: He will let someone through about 93% of the time in the first scenario, 82% in the second, and 53% in the last scenario. I still feel those numbers are way too high.

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