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Characters are generally flat-footed until their first turn in combat. However, the “special initiative action” delay allows you to

take no action and then act normally on whatever initiative count you decide to act.

If you choose to delay, and take no action, are you still flat-footed until you stop delaying?

Complicating the situation is that we have two definitions of how characters get flat-footed:

  1. the summary of the flat-footed condition says

    A character who has not yet acted during a combat is flat-footed,

  2. the glossary definition for flat-footed says

    Characters are flat-footed until their first turns in the initiative cycle.

This quibble between acting and having your turn has been addressed in this question, which asks about using special immediate actions that are allowed to be used while flat-footed (e.g. the nerveskitter spell, the ferocity alternate barbarian feature), and that concludes that “acting” here refers to your turn, not literally taking some action (and especially early on in the edition, refering to your turn as your action is frustratingly common in the rules, so that’s consistent). The official errata rules would have us favor the flat-footed condition itself over the glossary anyway.

So the question becomes, is a character who chooses to delay a character “who has not yet acted during a combat”?

For this question, I will accept rules-as-written analysis or developer commentary, non-RAW Wizards material like the FAQ, etc. However, I am not interested in personal opinion or analysis of “what makes the most sense” or “what makes for the best game”—I already firmly believe that there is no good reason to have this character remain flat-footed in this situation, since their original initiative indicated they reacted fast enough. What I want to know is whether or not there is any documented indication that Wizards and/or the people who worked for them agreed with me on that. My primary goal here is to determine whether I can state that such characters are not flat-footed as a matter of fact, or if I should couch that statement as my opinion, when answering questions here (e.g. this answer).

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  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Related question for Pathfinder: Do readied attacks end being flatfooted? Readied actions are different from a delay (since you still use your actions on your original turn, rather than delaying your entire turn), so I am not sure if the answer there applies here even though the rules for 3.5 and Pathfinder here are very similar. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Feb 15 '18 at 18:09
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The summary doesn't tell the whole story

The Player's Handbook on Flat-footed, in part, says, "At the start of a battle, before you have had a chance to act (specifically, before your first regular turn in the initiative order), you are flat-footed" (137 and emphasis mine).

If a typical creature in the first round of combat on its scheduled initiative count takes the special initiative action delay, that creature had a chance to act on its scheduled initiative count and opted to delay, therefore the creature thereafter should no longer be flat-footed.

The Rules of the Game

Although the columns are distrusted by some, Monster Manual author Skip Williams's Rules of the Game Web column "All about Initiative, Part 3" classifies the special initiative action delay as not an action (Player's Handbook 139), coining in the column "All about Actions, Part 1" the term nonaction for an action that "effectively takes no time at all."

Thus, taken in combination, a typical creature in the first round of combat should not be flat-footed after it takes the nonaction delay, having taken on its initiative count an action… albeit an action that consumed, effectively, no time.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You had your chance to act, you just didn't take it. :) \$\endgroup\$ – Michael W. Feb 15 '18 at 23:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Arguably, the "special initiative action delay" is an action anyway, lending further weight to this interpretation. \$\endgroup\$ – fectin Feb 16 '18 at 0:53

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