What is an "activity?"


Rules Discussion


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Pathfinder Pawns, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

From what I can tell, "action" and "activity" as defined game terms in Pathfinder 2nd Edition are 100% interchangeable. Every action can also be considered an activity and vice versa.

If that is not the case, then I ask: What is the game's formal definition of "activity?" An "action?" What criteria are needed before something can be considered an "activity?" And an "action?"


In simple terms, an activity is any action that has multiple actions inside it. "An activity typically involves using multiple actions to create an effect greater than you can produce with a single action, or combining multiple single actions to produce an effect that’s different from merely the sum of those actions. In some cases, usually when spellcasting, an activity can consist of only 1 action, 1 reaction, or even 1 free action." It's like asking if a square the same as a rectangle: a square is a rectangle but not all rectangles are squares. Replace activity with square and action with rectangle and you get the same thing.

Grand Archive

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Have you come across a situation where them being different is significant?

Grand Lodge

All activities are by definition actions. Some actions not activities (most single actions, all reactions and all free actions). There are special rules for activities that include subordinate actions and how they are allowed to function. Just like Graystone said.


In combat, I think of 'activities' as something that you spend your three standard actions on. It could be a single action, or it could be one of the combined activities such as casting a spell. Exploration, of course, has its own Exploration Activities - which are separate.

Not all activities are single actions, but all single actions can be wrapped into a one-action activity.

I'm not sure about reactions and free actions - whether those are activities or not. I haven't seen anywhere where the distinction is important. Most free actions or reactions specify how much action cost is allowed but that (normally single) action cost can be used for any action or activity that qualifies.


I think, as far as strict categories, it seems like the actions that count as activities are 1) any action taking longer/more than 1 action to perform, 2) any action with subordinate actions, regardless of whether it costs 1 action or is a free action or reaction, and 3) anything otherwise specified to be an activity, primarily Casting a Spell.

I'm fairly confident as far as points 1 and 3, but 2 is something I'm inferring from the description of subordinate actions implying that only activities can have them.

I'll agree with breithauptclan in that I don't know of anywhere in the rules that the distinction between a reaction/free action/single action that's an activity and one that's not is important, but I could easily be missing something.


Oh, as a side note, the Mighty Rage feature messes up on this terminology, as it conflates actions with single actions, unfortunately.

Sovereign Court

The definition seems to be:

CRB p. 461 wrote:

Single actions can be completed in a very short time. They’re self-contained, and their effects are generated within the span of that single action. During an encounter, you get 3 actions at the beginning of your turn, which you can use as described on page 468.

Activities usually take longer and require using multiple actions, which must be spent in succession. Stride is a single action, but Sudden Charge is an activity in which you use both the Stride and Strike actions to generate its effect.

Yeah that's actually a vague definition. "Usually" means "often but not always, otherwise we'd have said always".

The typical distinguishing features of an activity compared to an action seem to be complexity and time. If it involved subordinate actions or takes more than 1 action it's probably an activity. Notice that "or"; flurry of blows and twin takedown cost only 1 action but are activities because they let you do multiple subordinate actions. So the "usually multiple actions" should be taken with a grain of salt, because the 1-action activities are very popular. And on the other hand, exploration/downtime stuff is always called an activity even when it doesn't involve subordinate actions.

But really, it just seems to be a way of saying "this is a bit more complicated". I can't think of any case where it matters if something is an action or an activity, because they seem to just get treated the same by the rules.

I'm not sure where breithauptclan is going with that "wrapping". A Strike is a Strike; there's no difference between a Strike action wrapped into a Strike activity, and the bare unwrapped Strike action. If they are different (if the activity changes the Strike) then the wrapper should rename it ("super strike") because we know from the rules for subordinate actions that the outer activity isn't the same as the inner subordinate action, and you can't use the one if something calls for the other.


Ascalaphus wrote:
I'm not sure where breithauptclan is going with that "wrapping". A Strike is a Strike; there's no difference between a Strike action wrapped into a Strike activity, and the bare unwrapped Strike action. If they are different (if the activity changes the Strike) then the wrapper should rename it ("super strike") because we know from the rules for subordinate actions that the outer activity isn't the same as the inner subordinate action, and you can't use the one if something calls for the other.

The idea is for people who do have some sort of distinction between the two. A hypothetical feat or feature that says that you can make any 1 or 2 action activity. I couldn't see preventing it from being used with Stride just because Stride is a simple single action instead of being an activity. Just create a Stride activity that contains a single Stride action. If you want it to have a particular special name, go for it. But I don't think that it needs to have a distinct name.


In theory, if Mighty Rage's wording were clarified, its first sentence might need to say "Use a single action or 1-action activity that has the rage trait" to prevent the distinction from mattering.

Liberty's Edge

What is an "activity" ?

Pretty obviously it is a koan.


My naive reading is that an activity is anything that is not a single action, a free action, or a reaction.

Liberty's Edge

I see an activity as a unit comprised of one or several actions (including free actions).

I do not remember if a reaction can be part of an activity, but I think not.

Liberty's Edge

While I think an action cannot be made of several activities, nor be a part of several activities either.

Sovereign Court

Yeah actions are definitely a bit "smaller" than activities. The vast majority of actions take an action, free action or reaction. The only good counterexample I know is Ready, which is in the Basic Actions section but takes 2 actions. But that might just be the exception that confirms the rules because turn order manipulation is just special.

Exploration modes are titled as "Exploration Activities". Most of them are about doing some action while moving, but the action isn't always something that you could do as a standalone, like getting the + from Scouting.

The Exploration trait even says "An activity with this trait takes more than a turn to use, and can usually be used only during exploration mode."

Sovereign Court

breithauptclan wrote:
Ascalaphus wrote:
I'm not sure where breithauptclan is going with that "wrapping". A Strike is a Strike; there's no difference between a Strike action wrapped into a Strike activity, and the bare unwrapped Strike action. If they are different (if the activity changes the Strike) then the wrapper should rename it ("super strike") because we know from the rules for subordinate actions that the outer activity isn't the same as the inner subordinate action, and you can't use the one if something calls for the other.
The idea is for people who do have some sort of distinction between the two. A hypothetical feat or feature that says that you can make any 1 or 2 action activity. I couldn't see preventing it from being used with Stride just because Stride is a simple single action instead of being an activity. Just create a Stride activity that contains a single Stride action. If you want it to have a particular special name, go for it. But I don't think that it needs to have a distinct name.

I think the rules for Subordinate Actions kind of prevent that; they make it clear that the outer activity is not the same as the inner action. So if you wrapped action-Strike in activity-Strike, and something told you to make an Strike, you couldn't use that outer activity-Strike since the reference is to the action-Strike™. That's why I said any wrapper should get a new name.

It's kind of like offering a bundle or configurable product in your webshop with only one underlying simple product; it'll cause small confusions and subtle bugs because they're not the same thing and a reference to one of them doesn't directly get you the other.

And, again, I don't really know any reason why you'd require something to be specifically an action or specifically an activity. Since you can wrap activities in activities.

Basic Actions and various skill actions just seem to be the simplest starting blocks you can begin composing more complex actions with.


Ascalaphus wrote:
I think the rules for Subordinate Actions kind of prevent that; they make it clear that the outer activity is not the same as the inner action. So if you wrapped action-Strike in activity-Strike, and something told you to make an Strike, you couldn't use that outer activity-Strike since the reference is to the action-Strike™. That's why I said any wrapper should get a new name.

Well, I agree with that. But it also isn't the scenario that I am talking about.

What you are looking at is something like Sudden Charge that says that you can make a Stride single action. You wouldn't be able to replace that subordinate action with a different activity - even if all the activity does is use Stride.

What I am looking at is something more along the lines of Ready - where you can plug in 1-action action. Ready calls for an 'action'. Are 1-action activities such as casting a 1-action spell (Shield, Guidance, various Witch Hexes) allowed to be used for that? I would think that they are - you can use any action or activity that costs 1 action or less.

How about a hypothetical action that lets you plug in any activity up to 2 actions, but doesn't actually mention one way or another if simple actions are allowed? Would you prevent someone from using Stride in that action? Or would you allow the Stride simple action to be wrapped into a Stride activity for compatibility?


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Also, this reminds me of Java autoboxing.


breithauptclan wrote:
How about a hypothetical action that lets you plug in any activity up to 2 actions, but doesn't actually mention one way or another if simple actions are allowed? Would you prevent someone from using Stride in that action? Or would you allow the Stride simple action to be wrapped into a Stride activity for compatibility?

That would depend on the exact wording of the hypothetical action or ability and what it specifically calls for. If it uses the term Activity specifically, then no, a Stride (capitol "S") wouldn't qualify, as that is a specific and defined basic action, not an activity per se.

So say it was worded something like:

"You perform an activity that costs 1 or 2 actions."

That would include things like Flurry of Blows, Sudden Charge and the like, but would preclude basic actions like Strike, Stride, and etc.. The exception being that those actions could then be part of a larger activity.

Usually when there is an ability that lets you do something else, an action or activity, it will be pretty clear what actions or activities are allowed by that ability. Think things like Quick Draw or Risky Reload, where instead of giving you carte blanche to pick an action, it stipulates a specific one.

The only case of an ability like you describe that I can think of is the Summoner's Act Together. And that clearly lists an Action or Activity in it's rules text.


Curious: How do you rule on Ready? It specifically calls out for an action. Do you allow a readied Flurry of Blows or casting of Shield?


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breithauptclan wrote:
Curious: How do you rule on Ready? It specifically calls out for an action. Do you allow a readied Flurry of Blows or casting of Shield?

Ready says it requires a "single action" ["Choose a single action or free action you can use, and designate a trigger"]. That is defined as:

Single Actions
Source Core Rulebook pg. 17
"Single actions use this symbol (1 action symbol): They’re the simplest, most common type of action. You can use three single actions on your turn in an encounter, in any order you see fit."

And

"Actions
Source Core Rulebook pg. 461
Single actions can be completed in a very short time. They’re self-contained, and their effects are generated within the span of that single action. During an encounter, you get 3 actions at the beginning of your turn, which you can use as described on page 468."

And

"Turns
Source Core Rulebook pg. 468
When it’s your turn to act, you can use single actions (1 action symbol), short activities (2&3 action symbols), reactions, and free actions. When you’re finished, your turn ends and the character next in the initiative order begins their turn. Sometimes it’s important to note when during your turn something happens, so a turn is divided into three steps."

Going by the rules, a single action only relates to it's cost in the 3 action system and not if it's an action or activity.


graystone wrote:
Going by the rules, a single action only relates to it's cost in the 3 action system and not if it's an action or activity.

So, that's a 'yes' on using Ready with Flurry of Blows then? Even though it has the slight mismatch in language.

Do you also agree with beowulf99 that if an ability calls for a 1-action activity, that you could use Flurry of Blows (because it is an Activity) but couldn't use Stride (because it is only a simple action)?

Liberty's Edge

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A simple action is an activity too in my book.


Yep as far as the game cares an X-action activity is X-actions, but X-actions is not an X-action activity. During exploration you only have activities.

This is why metamagic feats says "the next action you use is Cast a Spell". It is also why they don't work on Spellstrike. Mechanically the game reads it like this: 1-action metamagic -> 2 action activity (spellstrike) -> metamagic fails -> (subordinate)1 or 2-action Cast a Spell -> resolve Spellstrike.


Yeah, it is just strange to me that someone would argue that:

* if an ability calls for an action, then using a 1-action cost activity in its place works fine.
* if an ability calls for a 1-action activity, you are not allowed to use a simple action in its place.

beowulf99 wrote:

So say it was worded something like:

"You perform an activity that costs 1 or 2 actions."

That would include things like Flurry of Blows, Sudden Charge and the like, but would preclude basic actions like Strike, Stride, and etc.

So I am trying to get to the bottom of that.


breithauptclan wrote:
So, that's a 'yes' on using Ready with Flurry of Blows then? Even though it has the slight mismatch in language.

I'm no really seeing it as a mismatch: single action is it's own specific thing [1 action cost] that can be different from just saying action [1 action cost or 'basic' actions]. Specifying that means a 'yes' because of that. Just saying action or activity gets messy.

breithauptclan wrote:
Do you also agree with beowulf99 that if an ability calls for a 1-action activity, that you could use Flurry of Blows (because it is an Activity) but couldn't use Stride (because it is only a simple action)?

This IS more difficult as, IMO, there IS a bit of a mismatch. The game says things like this for example: "Some spells are cast as a reaction or free action. In those cases, you Cast the Spell as a reaction or free action (as appropriate) instead of as an activity." This makes it seem that it isn't an activity when cast that but action cost based but then it says "Casting a Spell is a special activity" then goes into cost afterwards...

For instance, in your explanation I quoted, you used "Stride (because it is only a simple action)" but that, unlike single actions, isn't a term used/defined in the game. Even Basic Actions just "represent common tasks" and aren't actually limited to actions and contains activities on the list. As such, action and activity are used interchangeably or together 'as a package' in the rules, making pulling out activities ONLY as an issue IMO.

So while you COULD attempt to limit things to a 1 activity, it's got a built in argument on what that means. Basing thing on action cost is a much better way to work things then an attempt to limit things to action/activities or limit it to a specific action or activity [or both like a 1-2 action Cast a Spell].


To be completely clear, my example of an ability that asks for, "...an activity that costs 1 or 2 actions," was completely hypothetical. I can't think of an ability with that exact wording, the closest being the Summoner's Act Together as far as I know. Paizo has been pretty careful of labeling what they are calling for in any given ability.

Act Together wrote:
Either you or your eidolon takes an action or activity using the same number of actions as Act Together, and the other takes a single action.

Act Together clearly asks for either an action or activity of the first participant and to the second it grants a "single action". This can be read two different ways.

1. The first party can use an action or activity that costs up to 3 actions. The second can only use a single action, precluding any single action activities.

2. The first party can use an action or activity that costs up to 3 actions. The second can use any action or activity that costs a single action, essentially spending an action as they would at any other time, with the caveat that they can only spend 1 action on whatever it is they are trying to do.

I tend to lean towards the second reading here. In my opinion the final rider on Act Together reinforces this, as it allows you to use Act Together to use separate Exploration Activities, despite those clearly being activities and not basic actions. Though admittedly they include or sometimes just are basic actions being used repetitively like in the case of Avoid Notice, and are on a different time scale, so whether you accept that as a precedent to use during an encounter is up to you.

TL;DR: If there were an ability that was specific in using a basic action, then it would preclude the use of things like Flurry of Blows, as that is an activity despite costing a single action. If that same ability instead was specific in calling for an Activity, then it would preclude Strike but Not Flurry of Blows.

To my knowledge there are no feats or abilities that are worded this way at this time though, so sort of a moot point.


beowulf99 wrote:
To be completely clear, my example of an ability that asks for, "...an activity that costs 1 or 2 actions," was completely hypothetical. I can't think of an ability with that exact wording, the closest being the Summoner's Act Together as far as I know. Paizo has been pretty careful of labeling what they are calling for in any given ability.

The second half is currently hypothetical as far as I know. Since no one else has provided an actual example of an ability that calls for any Activity to be plugged in to it, I am going to stick with that hypothetical status.

Ready is a concrete example of an ability that calls for an action though. But like graystone mentions, that word is a bit vague and can be meant to include both simple actions and Activities.

beowulf99 wrote:
TL;DR: If there were an ability that was specific in using a basic action, then it would preclude the use of things like Flurry of Blows, as that is an activity despite costing a single action. If that same ability instead was specific in calling for an Activity, then it would preclude Strike but Not Flurry of Blows.

That is at least consistent. You are effectively creating a hard divide between an Action and an Activity. And either ruling that the 'action' mentioned in Ready is meant to include both, or that you would disallow Flurry of Blows and the like from being used as a readied action.


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That is the thing, it is not impossible to create a hard divide between actions and activities. A rule or feat could come along that sets that precedent.

But for right now, as far as I am concerned, I don't believe there is a hard divide between the two, instead they are very fluid and basically the same thing until you get to activities costing more than a single action.

And for the record, I don't believe that Ready is a concrete example of an ability that calls specifically for a non-activity action. Just like Act Together, it uses the wording, "Choose a single action or free action you can use, and designate a trigger," which I read as saying any ability or feat you can use with a single Action or as a free action (without a trigger).

"Ah," I hear you say, "But what about the first sentence of Ready?"

Ready wrote:
You prepare to use an action that will occur outside your turn.

To that I will respond in the age old tradition of the Paizo forums: The first sentence of a feat, ability, action or other rule is typically descriptive rather than rules text. It describes what you are doing in plain language before getting into the rules text that explains how that works. So the "action" that it calls for isn't a Basic Action. It is literally asking you to pick something that your character will do, limited to a single action cost.

So you could Ready a Flurry of Blows with the trigger, "That Goblin enters my melee range," and that would be an appropriate use of the Ready basic action in my opinion.

A thought to close with: Ready is listed under Basic Actions, right? It costs 2 actions to set up, and your Reaction to trigger it, so arguably it costs somewhere between 2 and 3 actions "worth" of investment, depending on how highly you value your reaction. So it isn't a "single action".

But it is also noted in the Release basic action as being an Activity.

So we have an example in the CRB of an Action that is also referred to, in the same section no less, as an Activity. Not only that, it is an "action" that costs more than a single "action", which makes it look a lot like an activity, right?

The lines are real blurry.


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Also see the "Is a manipulate action baked into firing a bow?" thread.

Shooting a crossbow is an activity composed of 2 distinct actions: Loading the crossbow and shooting it. I costs a total of 2 or 3 actions, depending on the reload statistic of the crossbow in question.

Shooting a bow on the other hand is still 2 distinct actions, loading and shooting, but it happens to cost only 1 action, the Interaction to load being a free action basically.

So shooting a bow would be a 1-action activity for example.


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Lycar wrote:
Shooting a crossbow is an activity composed of 2 distinct actions: Loading the crossbow and shooting it.

Being completely nitpicky here, so feel free to ignore this. I don't think it actually changes anything about your point - that shooting a bow is another example of a 1-action activity.

But I am pretty sure that shooting a crossbow is one simple action: Strike.

It doesn't even run into the problem of interact provoking reactions when you fire. Because the reload is a completely separate action. Reload can even be done on a different round of combat from when you fire.

Sovereign Court

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Yes, let's re-do the bow reload discussion here all over again. I'm sure this time we'll convince the other side.

Liberty's Edge

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Full circle, as I believe that discussion is what launched this thread :-D


Bingo.

Note how, when the question of 'do grabbed Archers need to make flat checks' isn't on the table, people do not seem to have a problem with just slapping all the tags on the activity and taking it from there?

Honi soit qui mal y pense...

Sovereign Court

Well to come back to the original question here;

Ravingdork wrote:

From what I can tell, "action" and "activity" as defined game terms in Pathfinder 2nd Edition are 100% interchangeable. Every action can also be considered an activity and vice versa.

If that is not the case, then I ask: What is the game's formal definition of "activity?" An "action?" What criteria are needed before something can be considered an "activity?" And an "action?"

The terms seem fairly but not entirely interchangeable. But there's not a clear definition of activity you can point to that draws a hard line;

- While activities usually take more than one action, that's guarded by a "usually". So it's not taking multiple actions that makes it an activity.
- While activities can have subordinate actions, they don't have to.
- While actions usually take exactly 1 action, free action or reaction, the Ready basic action takes 2.

Overall it doesn't seem to me like you're supposed to build hard distinctions between them and say "this requires an action, not an activity" or vice versa. Rather, it's just a convenient shorthand for things that take more than a simple basic action.

The really big rule is on subordinate actions not being the same as their parents. If Flurry of Blows calls for a Strike, you can't slip in a Lunge for that even though Lunge takes only 1 action and performs a Strike. You're asking for a Strike directly by name. So I think for designers, there's another rule: don't give two things the same name.


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Ascalaphus wrote:
Overall it doesn't seem to me like you're supposed to build hard distinctions between them and say "this requires an action, not an activity" or vice versa. Rather, it's just a convenient shorthand for things that take more than a simple basic action.

Basic Actions aren't meant to be actions per se but "common tasks" that are "used very frequently." IE, action is used for stuff you do a lot an not action cost or complexity.

In fact the section says "For example, a more complex action might let you Stride up to double your Speed instead of just up to your Speed, and a large number of activities include a Strike." That quote makes it seem like it's talking about actions in a casual way as it's talking about activities like "Stride up to double your Speed" as actions with subordinate actions like Strike.

So I'm not sure things like "simple basic action" has much meaning as a term past 'things you might do a lot'.

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