From 7 Action Types To Pathfinder 2's New 3 Action Economy
  • From 7 Action Types To Pathfinder 2's New 3 Action Economy


    Paizo's Jason Bulmahn talks about Pathfinder 2nd Edition's 3-Action Economy, where Pathfinder's seven action types are reduced to three standard actions plus a reaction.




    "It's your turn. You get to take three actions. That's it. You want to move three times? Done. Instead you want to move once, draw your sword, and attack? No problem. How about attack three times? Go ahead (but you'll take an increasing penalty for each additional attack). With only a few notable exceptions, most things in the game now take one action to accomplish. Opening a door, drawing a weapon, reloading a crossbow, moving up to your speed, raising your shield, taking a guarded step, swinging your greataxeóall of these and much more take just one action to perform."

    3 actions and one reaction. Most everything is one action, and you can repeat them as you wish. 3 moves, 3 attacks, 2 moves and an attack. Spells usually cost 2 actions, but some quick ones cost just 1 action.
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    Comments 89 Comments
    1. Arilyn's Avatar
      Arilyn -
      The second attack is at minus five.
      The 3 action economy cleans things up but may cause some other problems, like players constantly asking if something is an action or not. Think I'd have to give it a whirl before deciding if it's a worthwhile change.
    1. Charlaquin's Avatar
      Charlaquin -
      I absolutely love this idea. I don't love going back to movement being an action instead of its own type of resource like in 5e, but I think the flexibility this allows is well worth the trade-off. There are just so many possibilities. With only a weapon, a shield, and movement, you get seven possible combinations of actions on your turn:

      3 movements
      2 movements, 1 attack
      2 movements, raise shield
      1 movement, 1 attack, raise shield
      1 movement, 2 attacks
      2 attacks, raise shield
      3 attacks

      And it only increases from there the more possible actions you can choose from. Throw in the possibility of drawing a potion from your pack and drinking it, or casting a spell, or trying to intimidate your opponents. There's just so much flexibility, I love it!

      What I like most about this approach though, is the possibility of spells and maneuvers that get stronger the more actions you spend on them. Like the example in the first blog post, where each action you spend on Magic Missile gives you an extra missile. Or in the podcast, where they talked about the heal spell healing one target you touch with one action, one target within 30 feet with two actions, or each target within 30 feet with three actions. That's a really, really cool way to give spells and maneuvers some variability, and it makes for a lot of interesting decisions to be made every turn in exploration mode.

      Reactions are really cool too. I love them in 5e, but I do sometimes feel they are a little under-utilized Part of the reason Polearm Master is such a good Feat is because it allows you to maximize your action economy by giving you a reliable way to use your Bonus Action and your Reaction every turn. I get the impression that PF2 is going to make better use of the design space Reactions open up. I love that raising your shield is an action, and that doing so not only gives you the option to use your Reaction to block some damage with your shield in response to an attack hitting you. And the action economy article made it sound like you'll also be able to Ready an Action to be used as a Reaction in response to a trigger you set up, just like in 5e, which I am thrilled about. This is my absolute favorite incarnation of delaying actions I've seen, so it's great to see PF2 adopting it as well.

      I'm a little curious how dual-wielding will work. If going sword-and-board gives me the option of attacking one, two, or three times depending on if I raise my shield and/or move, what will the benefit of holding a second weapon instead of a shield be? Even more attacks? That seems like it could lead to lot of attacks per turn if so. It'll be interesting, for sure.
    1. Charlaquin's Avatar
      Charlaquin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Arilyn View Post
      The second attack is at minus five.
      And presumably the third, if you can make it is at minus ten. Unless your weapon is... I forget the term they used for it. Swift? Something like that. At any rate, certain weapons only give you a cumulative minus two on consecutive attacks.
    1. lyle.spade's Avatar
      lyle.spade -
      Quote Originally Posted by Arilyn View Post
      The second attack is at minus five.
      The 3 action economy cleans things up but may cause some other problems, like players constantly asking if something is an action or not. Think I'd have to give it a whirl before deciding if it's a worthwhile change.
      Given PF's penchant for detail, I can only assume that there will be a long list of actions, and descriptors that help players and GMs determine what would constitute a single action versus something that'd take longer, like a typical spell.

      Coriolis, from Modiphius/Free League, has a similar action economy, with everyone provided 3 Action Points in each combat round. Slow actions cost all three; normal ones two; and fast actions only one point. Aiming and firing is slow; a regular shot is normal; and firing from the hip (with a penalty) is a fast action. There are lists of examples of each, too. Reactions are handled differently, with them only available if you saved an AP from your last turn, which adds an interesting gambling-like dimension to combat.

      Anyway, this sounds interesting and I will definitely download the PDFs for review.
    1. werecorpse's Avatar
      werecorpse -
      I worry that it will be an element that encourages system mastery to min max leading to numerous action combinations being traps etc
    1. vpuigdoller's Avatar
      vpuigdoller -
      In the glasscanon podcast i loved when the wizard casted. One action for each component. Verbal one action, somatic one action. The fact that there are spells with one component only (one action) allowed for two spells casted. Very dynamic I like it. Harder spells with verbal, somatic and material component will probably consume all three actions.
    1. Charlaquin's Avatar
      Charlaquin -
      Quote Originally Posted by vpuigdoller View Post
      In the glasscanon podcast i loved when the wizard casted. One action for each component. Verbal one action, somatic one action. The fact that there are spells with one component only (one action) allowed for two spells casted. Very dynamic I like it. Harder spells with verbal, somatic and material component will probably consume all three actions.
      And with those one-action spells, you can choose between casting two such spells and moving, or one of them, moving, and attacking something with a weapon, casting one such spell and a regular two-action spell... I am loving all the possible combinations!
    1. barasawa -
      It could be a definite plus, but I'd rather see the real thing than just going off on a one sentence explanation with some vague combination examples.

      Are they reducing the Ancient Dragon Horde sized load of statuses as well?
    1. Charlaquin's Avatar
      Charlaquin -
      Quote Originally Posted by barasawa View Post
      It could be a definite plus, but I'd rather see the real thing than just going off on a one sentence explanation with some vague combination examples.
      Did you listen to the podcast? They have a couple combat encounters, so you can hear the new economy in action.

      Quote Originally Posted by barasawa View Post
      Are they reducing the Ancient Dragon Horde sized load of statuses as well?
      No news in that department yet, but I sure hope so! There weren't any that came up in the podcast that I recall, though they are only 1st level.
    1. mach1.9pants's Avatar
      mach1.9pants -
      It's a bit harsh that drawing a sword is an entire action, but i like the simplicity. I wonder how bows, crossbows and drawing ammunition/thrown weapons is going to work?

      btw attacks are at -0> -5> -10 unless it is an agile (less damage?) weapon then -0> -2> -4
    1. EzekielRaiden's Avatar
      EzekielRaiden -
      My major concern is that this will have the same problems as 5e's action economy but worse. When absolutely everything you do is competing for the same scarce resource, it becomes much harder to design classes that internally mesh. As someone else I know put it, the 5e Ranger is *less* than the sum of its parts, because most of its Ranger-y mechanics depend on Bonus actions, and you only get one. If a Wizard summons a dretch with a 2-action attack, do they just stop doing anything *as a Wizard* in order to move and use that attack? Does a Ranger end up being unable to move, move their pet, and have both make attacks?

      The usual answer to much if this is to make special combined actions, but that makes a mockery of the so-called simplicity. Sure, you only have 3 actions, but with X class and Y feat and Z item, that lets you cast 2 V/S spells *and* move, while Joe Fighter who just took Power Attack and a Bag of Holding can't draw his weapon, move, make one attack, and get ANY benefit from his shield.
    1. Jacob Lewis's Avatar
      Jacob Lewis -
      Love it! I think I might be playing Pathfinder someday.
    1. Ancalagon's Avatar
      Ancalagon -
      I'm intrigued. The devil is in the details though...
    1. EthanSental's Avatar
      EthanSental -
      So if you can already attack 3 times at say third level, what's thenfighter doing at higher levels? I'm asking for someone who might have heard it or read it cause I'm not interested enough in their game design to read it myself. Quite honestly, stop using the OGL and create your own game. WoIN did it and it's a nice system with less development staff.
    1. Arilyn's Avatar
      Arilyn -
      Quote Originally Posted by EthanSental View Post
      So if you can already attack 3 times at say third level, what's thenfighter doing at higher levels? I'm asking for someone who might have heard it or read it cause I'm not interested enough in their game design to read it myself. Quite honestly, stop using the OGL and create your own game. WoIN did it and it's a nice system with less development staff.
      You have three actions but attacking a second time is at minus 5.At higher levels maybe fighters can reduce that penalty?
      Not using the OGL and creating a whole new system would be an odd choice. Making a new edition is often a risk for game companies. Totally throwing out your previous system for a brand new one has never worked to my knowledge.
    1. Charlaquin's Avatar
      Charlaquin -
      Quote Originally Posted by mach1.9pants View Post
      It's a bit harsh that drawing a sword is an entire action, but i like the simplicity.
      I don't know how harsh spending "an entire action" on something really is when you get three of them, though. In 5e, you can move up to your speed, draw a weapon, and attack in one turn. In PF2, you'll be able to do the same. Or, if you already have your weapon drawn, you can move and attack twice, with the second attack being at -5.

      I will also be surprised if there isn't a Quickdraw Feat that allows you to draw a weapon without spending an action.

      Quote Originally Posted by mach1.9pants View Post
      I wonder how bows, crossbows and drawing ammunition/thrown weapons is going to work?
      I would assume action to draw your bow, action to load your bow, action to fire. If you've already got your bow drawn, action to load it, action to fire, and a third acton free to do something else like move. I wouldn't be surprised if you can spend an action aiming a ranged attack for a bonus. At least as a Feat if not as a standard option.

      Quote Originally Posted by mach1.9pants View Post
      btw attacks are at -0> -5> -10 unless it is an agile (less damage?) weapon then -0> -2> -4
      That's what it sounds like.

      Quote Originally Posted by EzekielRaiden View Post
      My major concern is that this will have the same problems as 5e's action economy but worse. When absolutely everything you do is competing for the same scarce resource, it becomes much harder to design classes that internally mesh. As someone else I know put it, the 5e Ranger is *less* than the sum of its parts, because most of its Ranger-y mechanics depend on Bonus actions, and you only get one. If a Wizard summons a dretch with a 2-action attack, do they just stop doing anything *as a Wizard* in order to move and use that attack?
      If you want to move and use that 2-action spell? Yeah. Or you could use that 2-action spell and a 1-action spell and not move. How is that different than only being able to move and take one action? The only difference I see is that it gives you the option of sacrificing your movement to do even more spells on one turn. Seems like all upside to me.

      Quote Originally Posted by EzekielRaiden View Post
      Does a Ranger end up being unable to move, move their pet, and have both make attacks?
      That will depend on how they handle animal companions. 5e is extremely gunshy about letting Player-controlled NPCs have their own independent actions (especially early in 5e's run, they've lightened up on it a bit since then). I kind of doubt PF2 will be quite so conservative with NPC actions, but we'll have to wait and see. I'd bet that the ranger's animal companion will have 3 actions of its own that it takes on its own turn.

      Quote Originally Posted by EzekielRaiden View Post
      The usual answer to much if this is to make special combined actions, but that makes a mockery of the so-called simplicity. Sure, you only have 3 actions, but with X class and Y feat and Z item, that lets you cast 2 V/S spells *and* move, while Joe Fighter who just took Power Attack and a Bag of Holding can't draw his weapon, move, make one attack, and get ANY benefit from his shield.
      That's definitely something worth being concerned about, given Pathfinder's track record. We'll have to keep an eye out for such exploits when the playtest releases and give feedback about such things if they pop up.

      Quote Originally Posted by EthanSental View Post
      So if you can already attack 3 times at say third level, what's thenfighter doing at higher levels? I'm asking for someone who might have heard it or read it cause I'm not interested enough in their game design to read it myself.
      Well it's not out yet, so no one has read it yet. There was a podcast where some folks got to play a session with the playtest rules, but it was at 1st level, so no way to know at this point what fighter characters will do with their actions at higher levels. My guess would be, since it sounded like you add your character's level to a lot of rolls that attack rolls with proficient weapons will be one of those things, and that higher level fighters won't get more attacks, but they will have a much better chance of hitting with consecutive attacks. Attacking twice or three times seems like kind of a waste of actions at 1st level, since successive attacks take a cumulative -5 penalty (or a cumulative -2 penalty if the weapon is "agile.") So, sure, you could attack three times starting at first level, but since the second attack is not super likely to hit and the third is almost definitely going to miss, you're probably better off attacking once, taking a guarded step back, and then moving your speed away, or something like that. At higher levels, those subsequent attacks will become worth actually considering. And of course, high level characters will likely have more Class Feats, which could help high-level Fighters in combat in other ways than just more attacks.
    1. Evenglare's Avatar
      Evenglare -
      Hm, i'll have to get this on paper so I can do some number crunching before I say if its good or bad. Not enough details given, and yes I know about the podcast, but that certainly doesn't encapsulate EVERYTHING.
    1. werecorpse's Avatar
      werecorpse -
      Also as I understand it (from third hand sources) getting 10 below the number needed to hit is a fumble so attacking a third time at low level will result in a lot of fumbles.

      I wasn't a fan of a lot of the changes they chose to pursue from 3.5 but I'm intrigued to see how they go with less backward compatibility shackles.
    1. Charlaquin's Avatar
      Charlaquin -
      Quote Originally Posted by werecorpse View Post
      Also as I understand it (from third hand sources) getting 10 below the number needed to hit is a fumble so attacking a third time at low level will result in a lot of fumbles.
      I donít recall hearing that happen in the podcast, but I might just have missed it. I know that with attacks it was a critical hit on 10 over the targetís AC, and that on skill checks it was the old standard critical success on a natural 20, critical failure on a natural 1, so it does stand to reason that youíd critical miss on 10 below the targetís AC on an attack roll. I just donít remember if it actually happened, so I canít reliably confirm or deny.
    1. mach1.9pants's Avatar
      mach1.9pants -
      Quote Originally Posted by Charlaquin View Post
      I don't know how harsh spending "an entire action" on something really is when you get three of them, though. In 5e, you can move up to your speed, draw a weapon, and attack in one turn. In PF2, you'll be able to do the same. Or, if you already have your weapon drawn, you can move and attack twice, with the second attack being at -5.

      I will also be surprised if there isn't a Quickdraw Feat that allows you to draw a weapon without spending an action.
      You misunderstand me. I am not comparing the 3 action PF2 system to 5E, or anything else. I am saying that having to use an action (IE lose an attack) to draw a weapon is harsh. drawing a sword is not equal, in time taken or effort expended or mechanical result given, to making an attack. It's simple, sure, but I like PF idea that you can draw your sword as part of your move (or in PF2's case maybe as part of a move or an attack). If someone with a sword drawn can move 30' and then attack twice, it makes no sense to me that a person with a sword in a sheath couldn't move 30' and then attack twice in the same time. Drawing a sword takes less time than taking an arrow from a case (quivers are only if you are not moving cos arrows fall out) and nocking it - not that it matters if it's about game balance. Still I haven't seem the full action economy yet, so I wait.
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