Scenario 1:

Consider a Stalwart Defender with the following Defensive Power:

Intercept (Ex): Once a round as an immediate action, when a melee or ranged weapon would successfully strike an adjacent ally, the stalwart defender can choose to have the weapon strike him instead of the intended target. [...]

The Stalwart Defender has the Quick Draw feat and a Quickdraw Shield with Energy Resistance to Fire.

[...] If you have the Quick Draw feat, you may don or put away a quickdraw shield as a free action.

The Stalwart Defender's adjacent ally is shot by a firey arrow. The Stalwart Defender does not yet have his shield drawn. So can the Stalwart Defender draw his shield while taking his intercept action, and benefit from its resistance against the fire arrow?

According to the rules as written,

You can perform one or more free actions while taking another action normally.

This question addresses if a character can take a free action in response to another character's actions, to which the answer is no. (That falls under the realm of immediate actions.) However, as long as you're already "acting normally" you seem to be allowed to take free actions, whether it's your turn or not.

This interpretation also makes sense stylistically, as a character should be able to take their usual free actions while already reacting to another character, such as drawing a shield while intercepting an attack.

Scenario 2:

A character has a +1 base attack bonus. This allows him to do the following

Draw a weapon as a move action, or (if your base attack bonus is +1 or higher) as a free action as part of movement.

The character also has the Step Up and Following Step feat, giving him the following ability:

Whenever an adjacent foe attempts to take a 5-foot step away from you, you may also [move up to 10 feet] as an immediate action.

During this 10 foot movement done as an immediate action, can the character draw a weapon as a free action?

Note that I'm specifically interested in answers not citing D&D 3.5 FAQs... I'd rather stick to Pathfinder rules and clarifications from Paizo.

  • \$\begingroup\$ How are you making attacks of opportunity with a weapon (Crossbow) that doesn't threaten? :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Cthos
    Jan 24, 2012 at 19:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Cthos—There are some feats (I know they apply to bows, maybe crossbows?) that let you threaten with a ranged weapon. \$\endgroup\$
    – dlras2
    Jan 24, 2012 at 22:52
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ "Snap Shot" Feat in ultimate Combat: paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/ultimateCombat/… \$\endgroup\$
    – Cthos
    Jan 24, 2012 at 23:21

3 Answers 3


Most free actions must occur on your turn, so no, the Dwarf cannot draw his shield

I quoted 3.5 in the other question, but since you're not interested in that, I'll stick with a reading of the Pathfinder PRD:

Combat Round:

In a normal round, you can perform a standard action and a move action, or you can perform a full-round action. You can also perform one swift action and one or more free actions. You can always take a move action in place of a standard action.

Free Actions:

Free actions don't take any time at all, though there may be limits to the number of free actions you can perform in a turn. Free actions rarely incur attacks of opportunity. Some common free actions are described below.

Great, free actions are quick. What's speaking?


In general, speaking is a free action that you can perform even when it isn't your turn. Speaking more than a few sentences is generally beyond the limit of a free action.

(Emphasis Mine)

So, why is there a special clause for speaking that says you can do it when it is not your turn if you can take free actions outside of your turn? This clause does not come into conflict with "You can perform one or more free actions while taking another action normally.", which is simply a clarification that "Sure you can drop your sword while attempting to climb the rope while shouting at your Dwarf companion to get his shield out"

How about immediate actions?

Much like a swift action, an immediate action consumes a very small amount of time but represents a larger expenditure of effort and energy than a free action. However, unlike a swift action, an immediate action can be performed at any time—even if it's not your turn.

There again is the special emphasis that it can be done when it is not your turn. This further implies that most actions can only be taken on your turn.

Paizo, to my knowledge, has not commented on this because it is the same as 3.5, and this has already been covered in a FAQ by the 3.5 designers. Since Pathfinder is an improvement on 3.5 and doesn't change the rules wholesale, why would they comment again on this?

Source? Pathfinder PRD combat section.

And for those interested, further discussion on the 3.5 side of things here: https://rpg.stackexchange.com/a/8896/1736


And to counter a point from your question:

This interpretation also makes sense stylistically, as a character should be able to take their usual free actions while already reacting to another character, such as drawing a shield while intercepting an attack or loading a crossbow with rapid reload while making an attack of opportunity.

What about during the surprise round? Say someone botches their perception and is about to get shot with said arrow. Totally unaware. Should he be able to whip out his shield then?

  • \$\begingroup\$ To counter your counterpoint, should he be able to take the hit for his ally then? \$\endgroup\$
    – dlras2
    Jan 24, 2012 at 19:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DanRasmussen - Right, he wouldn't be able to take the immediate in the first place. However, you're trying to say that "Because I can take an action, I can take another free action" which just doesn't work RAW. My counterpoint illustrates that you would not be able to take a free action regardless of if he could whip out the shield or not. (But okay, it does specifically state that they cannot act in the surprise round) \$\endgroup\$
    – Cthos
    Jan 24, 2012 at 19:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ I guess what I meant by making sense stylistically is that free actions seem to be actions done at the same time you do something else. Loading a bow during an attack, drawing a weapon during a move, speaking during whatever it is you're doing - so if you're already acting, it would make sense that you can do these actions as well. RAW seems to state "you can only do free actions when you can do other actions" but then ignores the existence of immediate actions. \$\endgroup\$
    – dlras2
    Jan 24, 2012 at 22:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DanRasmussen - All of those other things can be explained away pretty easily though: Loading a bow during an attack isn't actually a free action, it's part of the Attack action (i.e. No Action), drawing a weapon in a move is a Free action, but only occurs on your turn, Speaking is a specific exception laid out in the rules. That said, You're not allowing 3.5 FAQ answers, which is silly IMO, because Pathfinder didn't change every single 3.5 rule. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cthos
    Jan 24, 2012 at 23:23
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @DanRasmussen - RAW, no, he could not, because it is not your turn when you take the action (though really, that shouldn't come up very often). There are definitely parts of Pathfinder which are messy. None of this prevents you from houseruling "Sure, that makes sense, I'll let him pull out the shield." Heck, RAW, you can't use Raise Dead on a 2nd level character because of a loophole in the order of operations... \$\endgroup\$
    – Cthos
    Jan 24, 2012 at 23:30

To answer part 2 of your question:

If you have a base attack bonus of +1 or higher, you may draw a weapon as a free action combined with a regular move.

From Draw or Sheathe a Weapon on the pfsrd.

The rules specifically specify that the free draw only works as part of a regular move, so Step Up/Following Step would not allow a free draw.

  • \$\begingroup\$ specifically specify? :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Eric B
    Sep 18, 2013 at 20:05

Immediate actions use up the swift action of the following turn. Logically, immediate actions are just swift actions you can take out-of-turn.

Swift actions take almost no time but consist of greater effort whereas free actions take no time at all but also consist of little to no effort.

There is precedent for free actions being used outside of one's turn. Ex: Speaking.

Also, the limitations to free actions are flexible.

...though there may be limits to the number of free actions you can perform in a turn.

Despite saying this, the rules never bring up the limitations again, leaving it entirely to GM discretion. Keep in mind however that it references "turn" not "round."

In the end, scenario 1 comes down to GM discretion. I would allow it in my own games while limiting free actions that happen out of combat to a single free action connected to any triggering action.(Aka: 1 free per immediate or readied action)

Scenario 2 when RAW is: no.

If you have a base attack bonus of +1 or higher, you may draw a weapon as a free action combined with a regular move.

The movement gained from step-up and following step is not regular movement.

There is also specific wording for how one may draw a weapon while charging.

You must move before your attack, not after. You must move at least 10 feet (2 squares) and may move up to double your speed directly toward the designated opponent. If you move a distance equal to your speed or less, you can also draw a weapon during a charge attack if your base attack bonus is at least +1.


If you are able to take only a standard action on your turn, you can still charge, but you are only allowed to move up to your speed (instead of up to double your speed) and you cannot draw a weapon unless you possess the Quick Draw feat. You can't use this option unless you are restricted to taking only a standard action on your turn.

You can draw while charging only if you move up to 1 movement action's worth of movement and no more; and to draw a weapon during a surprise round charge, requires you to make drawing the weapon a free action.(Quick Draw) In both instances, you are effectively combining the "Draw a weapon" move action with the "Movement" move action. If you would be denied that move action, you are denied the draw, with exception going to if drawing a weapon is a free action.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The precedent speaking provides is actually a negative one: it makes an exception, thereby proving that there's a general rule it needs to make an exception for. This rule is that free actions can only happen on your turn. \$\endgroup\$
    – user17995
    Apr 27, 2016 at 18:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ When someone asks me to rewrite D&D 3.5 one of the first things I'll do is change that to Speaking is not an action; a creature can speak even when it's not its turn. The DM may limit the amount of speaking a creature can do during a round. That way folks won't try to take a free action to say, "Hey, rube," then (because they can take free actions during other free actions) take a free action during their speaking to drop their shields then quick draw their crossbows then drop prone--all off-turn. Yuck. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 27, 2016 at 18:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ O, hey, welcome to the site! Take the tour. Fortunately or unfortunately, timing questions in D&D 3.5 and similar properties attract a lot of attention, controversy, and strong opinions, which probably explains the downvote (which isn't mine, by the way). Don't let that discourage you. Your input is appreciated. Thanks for helping strangers and have fun. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 27, 2016 at 18:49

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