Archives of Nethys

Rules Index | GM Screen | Player's Guide

Chapter 1: Introduction / Format of Rules Elements

Understanding Actions

Source Core Rulebook pg. 17 2.0
Characters and their adversaries affect the world of Pathfinder by using actions and producing effects. This is especially the case during encounters, when every action counts. When you use an action, you generate an effect. This effect might be automatic, but sometimes actions necessitate that you roll a die, and the effect is based on what you rolled.

Throughout this book, you will see special icons to denote actions.

Single Actions

Source Core Rulebook pg. 17 2.0
Single actions use this 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.


Source Core Rulebook pg. 17 2.0
Reactions use this symbol: . These actions can be used even when it’s not your turn. You get only one reaction per encounter round, and you can use it only when its specific trigger is fulfilled. Often, the trigger is another creature’s action.

Free Actions

Source Core Rulebook pg. 17 2.0
Free actions use this symbol: . Free actions don’t require you to spend any of your three single actions or your reaction. A free action might have a trigger like a reaction does. If so, you can use it just like a reaction—even if it’s not your turn. However, you can use only one free action per trigger, so if you have multiple free actions with the same trigger, you have to decide which to use. If a free action doesn’t have a trigger, you use it like a single action, just without spending any of your actions for the turn.


Source Core Rulebook pg. 17 2.0
Activities are special tasks that you complete by spending one or more of your actions together. Usually, an activity uses two or more actions and lets you do more than a single action would allow. You have to spend all the actions an activity requires for its effects to happen. Spellcasting is one of the most common activities, as most spells take more than a single action to cast.

Activities that use two actions use this symbol: . Activities that use three actions use this symbol: . A few special activities, such as spells you can cast in an instant, can be performed by spending a free action or a reaction.

All tasks that take longer than a turn are activities. If an activity is meant to be done during exploration, it has the exploration trait. An activity that takes a day or more of commitment and that can be done only during downtime has the downtime trait.