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Can you use a move action to make a swift action?

What if you have 2 swift spells and a standard one, can you cast them all in one round?

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up vote 12 down vote accepted


If you have two swift action abilities you cannot traditionally use both in the same round unless you have some sort of Rule 0 or power from another effect that specifically allows it. I did look into Standard Action rules to see if you can use a standard action on a swift one (as sort of a downgrade as it were) but the description below clearly debunks that. So if you have two swifts and a standard, one of those swifts will just have to wait until your next turn.

According to d20PFSRD:

A swift action consumes a very small amount of time, but represents a larger expenditure of effort than a free action. You can perform one swift action per turn without affecting your ability to perform other actions. In that regard, a swift action is like a free action. You can, however, perform only one single swift action per turn, regardless of what other actions you take. You can take a swift action anytime you would normally be allowed to take a free action. Swift actions usually involve spellcasting, activating a feat, or the activation of magic items.

Cast a Quickened Spell:

You can cast a quickened spell (see the Quicken Spell metamagic feat), or any spell whose casting time is designated as a free or swift action, as a swift action. Only one such spell can be cast in any round, and such spells don't count toward your normal limit of one spell per round. Casting a spell as a swift action doesn't incur an attack of opportunity.

D20 SRD says the same but with about half the paragraph so I gave the longer answer since you tagged both 3.5e and Pathfinder.

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Actions Taking More Time Can't Be Traded for Actions Taking Less Time

The action system in Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 and derivative works is strict--so strict that breaking it is often the goal of system optimizers. When a character can do more or different things with the typical allotment of actions, the universe sobs.

By default, during a turn, a creature can take 1 standard action, 1 move action, 1 swift action, 1 5-ft. step if no other movement has been used, and any number of free actions the DM permits. A full-round action can be taken instead of both 1 standard action and 1 move action. A second move action can be taken instead of a standard action (PH 138). If a creature takes an immediate action, it can't take a swift action on its next turn.

The game explains what a creature can do, not what a creature can't do unless it's clarifying, so despite the initial batch of actions taking increasingly smaller amounts of actual, character-point-of-view time, a creature without special abilities specifically allowing it to do so can't exchange a longer action for a shorter action (e.g. a creature can't take a second swift action instead of taking a move action) nor combine shorter actions to take longer ones (e.g. a creature can't shove together its 5-ft. step, its swift action, and all its free actions to take an additional standard action). That's just not a thing.

Use Tokens to Track Actions
If the concept's a struggle, it's often better to think about a creature's turn in terms of tokens and spending tokens to take actions. Make 2 piles of tokens, one for the creature's current turn and another for the creature's upcoming turn, with each pile containing the following:

  • 1 red token: full-round action. If the creature takes this action, it also spends 1 orange token and 2 yellow tokens.
  • 1 orange token: standard action. This also spends the red token and 1 yellow token.
  • 2 yellow tokens: move action. Spending 1 yellow token also spends the red token if it remains. If the creature spends the second yellow token and it still has the orange token, it spends the orange token, too.
  • 1 green token: swift action. If, after its turn ends, the creature takes an immediate action, it spends the upcoming turn's green token.
  • 1 blue token: 5-ft. step. This is an even trickier one. The creature can only spend this token if he has not otherwise traversed 1 or more squares, and once he spends this token he can't traverse more squares using other actions.
  • Infinite indigo tokens: free action. (You might need to visit an arts & crafts store.) If the creature speaks after its turn ends, it spends an upcoming turn's indigo token. The DM may let a creature speak anyway, even if the creature has no indigo tokens (like when it hasn't gotten a turn yet) (PH 144).

There's more to it than this (as if this isn't complex enough already) and special circumstances abound, but this should permit muddling through.

If you find this particularly useful, I suggest adding violet tokens to each turn's pile representing the creature's number of attacks of opportunity (PH 137). Spend 1 violet token from the upcoming turn pile when a creature takes an attack of opportunity.

An Example
You round a dungeon corner to find an orc with a battleaxe up in your grill. Initiative is rolled, and you go first. You make 2 piles of tokens--this turn's pile and the upcoming turn's pile--, each containing 1 red, 1 orange, 2 yellow, 1 green, 1 blue, and infinite indigo tokens.

  • Your Turn: You take a 5 ft. step to get out of melee range of the orc (1 blue token). You take a standard action to cast the spell magic missile [evoc] (PH 251) at the orc, who doesn't die (1 orange token and 1 red token). You take a free action to say, "Why didn't I prepare color spray?" (1 indigo token). You take a free action to drop your crossbow (1 indigo token). You take a move action to draw your morningstar (the second yellow token). Your turn ends.
  • The Orc's Turn: The orc takes a 5 ft. step to enter melee range (1 blue token). The orc takes a free action to enter a rage (PH 25) (1 indigo token). He says, "Die, finger-wiggler!" (1 indigo token). The orc takes a full-round action to make a full attack (1 red token, 1 orange token, 2 yellow tokens). You take a free action to say, "Magic trumps axes" (1 indigo token from the upcoming turn). You take an immediate action to cast the spell permeable form [trans] (LoM 129) (1 green token from the upcoming turn). The orc howls in frustration (1 indigo token).

On your turn you'll have 2 piles of tokens--this turn's pile and the upcoming turn's pile--, with this turn's pile containing 1 red, 1 orange, 2 yellow, 1 blue, and infinite indigo tokens, but no green token because you spent that already; and the upcoming turn's pile containing 1 red, 1 orange, 2 yellow, 1 green, 1 blue, and infinite indigo tokens.

Credit Where Credit's Due: The Use Tokens for Actions idea is from somebody's blog (although these words are mine), but I can't remember whose. I'll link to it if someone finds it.

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In case of colorblind players (I have one so this comes up frequently) you can just use coins per action in a turn - one side is "ready" and one side is "spent". It wouldn't take much to print a grid with action designated spaces. – CatLord Jan 17 '14 at 1:28
It's a good idea to implement, I've never thought on that. I just have to get (or create) some tokens – apacay Jan 27 '14 at 13:28

No, the only default action-trading available are standard for move, or move+standard for full-round.1 You cannot trade any other action to get more swift actions. In fact, getting more swift actions is extremely limited:

The only way in 3.5 to take more than one swift action in a turn is RKV

The ruby knight vindicator from Tome of Battle gains the ability to burn a use of Turn-or-Rebuke Undead for an extra swift action in a turn. This is literally the only option in all of 3.5 that allows more than one general-purpose swift action in a round.

  1. Some argue that full-round is only available is you trade in all actions (including swift), since that is the wording used in the Player’s Handbook, but since that book predates the introduction of swift actions, I consider this to be just an artifact of where things stood at the time.
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In Pathfinder the third-party base class time thief at level 1 has the special ability mote of time, allowing the character 4/day (but only 1/round) to take a free action to take an extra swift action. – Hey I Can Chan Jun 15 '15 at 8:26
@HeyICanChan That’s pretty neat; I may have to check that class out. – KRyan Jun 15 '15 at 14:12

What if you have 2 swift spells and a standard one, can you cast them all in one round?

This is definitely a no-no because you're technically adding actions. A Swift action is definitely more valuable than a Move Action. So 2 Swift + 1 Standard would be better.

That stated, as a Pathfinder DM if you wanted to make 2 Swift actions and 0 Standard actions, I would probably allow this. Swift actions are less powerful than Standard actions, so if you took an Immediate Action and then needed to cast a spell on your turn that had a casting time of Swift, I would let you do that instead of your Standard. It might be a minor rules break, but you're not technically trying to cheat, you're trying to do something small instead of something big.

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There is a case where 2 swift actions can be more powerful, such as using Ki points and the activation of some magic items. – Fering May 31 '15 at 17:00

No, RAW do not allow for any way to take more than one swift action per round, nor to use a standard, move-equivalent, or full-round action to do something that can normally be done as a swift action.

That said, as a DM I've always allowed players to sacrifice their standard action, but not their move action, for a second swift action, but only if they are significantly different types of swift actions - so using a skill trick and casting a swift spell would be ok, but not two swift spells, and probably not for a swift spell after having used Feather Fall as an immediate action.

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