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The description of the Psychoportive Talent Trait says,

You can expend your psionic focus as an immediate action to make a five-foot step. You may do this even if you have already moved in the round in question, although not if you have already taken a five-foot step, and doing so does not prevent further movement in this round.

What kind of attacks can I completely negate by using this ability ? Specifically (assuming no one has Reach):

  1. A single melee attack from a creature who starts adjacent to me on the beginning of its turn.
  2. All iterative melee attacks from the same creature.
  3. A single melee attack from a creature who takes a regular Move action on its turn to move adjacent to me.
  4. An attack from a creature made as part of a charge on its turn.
  5. All iterative attacks from the same charging creature with Pounce.
  6. A projectile ranged attack (i.e. crossbow bolt) targeting me.
    1. Same as above, and I am able to Psychoport behind an obstacle to break LoS.
  7. A Ray attack targeting me (same consideration as above).
  8. A Line/Cone/Burst/Spread spell effect, when I am able to Psychoport out of its area of effect.

I think there must be some basic unifying rule that describes how immediate movement interacts with attacks, but I don't know what it might be.

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an immediate action can be performed at any time—even if it’s not your turn.

(Actions in Combat → Immediate Actions)

This is literally all we get, “any time.” The only way I feel this can be understood is as what it says—any time. This is problematic because the game doesn’t define time very deeply—there’s rounds and turns and actions which break up time in specific ways, but this decidedly doesn’t cover “any time.” It would be great if the game did—it would allow us to just point to a rules quote and say “here’s the answer,” to this and myriad other, related questions—but it does not. What we are left with is a tension between the discrete chunks of time that we do have, and the reality of taking various physical actions that we know take some amount of time, which we expect the game to emulate barring an explicit statement to the contrary. To me, it is clear that time exists and is experienced by characters in a way that is similar to reality, and that the abstraction of rounds, turns, and actions is just that, an abstraction, and “any time” isn’t limited to it—but others disagree.

Nonetheless, even if we don’t tie things tightly to the rounds, turns, actions structure, “any time” does still imply some limitations.

For example, when attacking, the rules for attack rolls specify that “If your result equals or beats the target’s Armor Class, you hit and deal damage.” There is no time between an attack roll being made successfully, and damage being dealt. So you cannot use an immediate action in response to an attack roll and get your action in before the damage.

On the other hand, realistically, attacks take non-zero time (a sword takes time to swing, an arrow takes time to fly), so you can use an immediate action in response to someone starting to attack. You just have to do so before they roll if you want to get your action in before damage is dealt. (The rules are not clear on whether or not attackers have to declare who they’re attacking, so you may have to use your action without knowing for sure that you are the target.)

This is the only guidance the rules afford to us, and so this is going to be how I adjudicate the answers to any questions about immediate actions. Though other limitations may well be reasonable houserules, as “any time” is quite powerful and also quite difficult to manage as a GM, I don’t find it plausible to tie “any time” to turn/round/action chunks. For instance, that would fly in the face of the stated purpose of options like emergency force sphere, which says “Normally this spell is used to buy time for dealing with avalanches, floods, and rock-slides,” which it could not do if the spell were unable to be used after such a thing had started but before it buried a character, even if that was one action. On the other hand, this example also does well demonstrating the possible reasons for such a houserule—emergency force sphere is a preposterously overpowered spell. My preference is to simply ban emergency force sphere instead, however.

Anyway, on to your individual questions, answered with this understanding of time within the game:

  1. A single melee attack from a creature who starts adjacent to me on the beginning of its turn.

As long as you use it before it has made its attack roll, yes, you can interrupt that. The creature will use its attack, but miss.

  1. All iterative melee attacks from the same creature.

First of all, remember that creatures can take their five-foot step during a full-attack. If a creature didn’t have to move to begin their full-attack, and you take an immediate action to 5-ft step away, they can simply 5-ft step towards you and keep attacking. One attack is wasted, but the others are not.

Likewise, obviously, if you step into another square they can threaten, they can keep attacking you; the fact that you moved during a previous attack has no effect on the remaining ones. In fact, since the rules don’t specify that the creature has to declare where they’re attacking when they begin to do so, it may be that they can even still attack you with the first attack in this case. (The rules are unclear about this.)

Finally, even if they cannot take a 5-ft step, creatures can choose to make a full-attack or not after seeing the results of their first attack. If you immediate-action yourself away from a creature and it misses its first attack, and it has no other targets, it will presumably treat that single attack as its standard action, and then use its move action accordingly.

  1. A single melee attack from a creature who takes a regular Move action on its turn to move adjacent to me.

If you use Psychoportive Talent to move while the creature is moving, it can change its movement accordingly. Like attacks, each square of movement is an individual decision for the creature: it is never “locked in” to going to a particular square next. Even when running or charging, which prevents a turn, the creature can choose to simply stop if it wishes.

If you wait until the creature has arrived at its destination and begun to attack, this is the same as 1.

  1. An attack from a creature made as part of a charge on its turn.

No difference from 3.

  1. All iterative attacks from the same charging creature with Pounce.

Same as 3 and 4 except that if you wait until it arrives before using Psychoportive Talent, this behaves like 2 rather than 1, except of course that they are committed to a full-attack and cannot take a 5-ft step as they have already moved (the charge). This may mean their options for “salvaging” the turn are highly limited.

  1. A projectile ranged attack (i.e. crossbow bolt) targeting me.
    1. Same as above, and I am able to Psychoport behind an obstacle to break LoS.

Projectiles have finite speed and therefore non-zero travel time. Here, even if the creature doesn’t have to “declare” a target, you’re still looking at a projectile in flight and can see its direction (though honestly I feel much the same way about a sword swing anyway). So you can use an immediate action after seeing where the projectile is going, and where it’s going cannot be changed after that point. Whether or not you break line of sight with your movement is irrelevant, because the projectile was already going to miss no matter where you went.

  1. A Ray attack targeting me (same consideration as above).

This is unclear; we do not have strict rules for whether or not a ray is instantaneous (or as good as, e.g. a laser) or if it has a perceptible travel time. If there is time in which you can act, then you can avoid it. If there isn’t, then to avoid it you have to get out of range or behind cover—the choice of targeting would be the last step in casting the spell and too late to avoid if the actual travel time of the ray is zero.

  1. A Line/Cone/Burst/Spread spell effect, when I am able to Psychoport out of its area of effect.

Similar to the ray, depends on the travel time of the effect, which isn’t defined. You may need to move before it has been targeted, meaning you not only have to get out of its area, but out of any area within its range. If you can do that, though, you can avoid it.


As you can see, this makes Psychoportive Talent extremely powerful, foiling a wide variety of effects, costing opponents significant resources, and at almost no cost to you. D&D 3.5e had a similar feature, abrupt jaunt, which was a 10-ft. teleport 3+Int times a day—this was widely and strongly recommended for banning. I feel likewise about Psychoportive Talent (and I’ve worked for Dreamscarred Press, though after the trait was published). I do not consider the problems with Psychoportive Talent or emergency force sphere to justify nerfing all immediate actions, however, which is what tying immediate actions to the game’s abstract time-chunks does. It is easier, in my view, to ban the problematic cases, than it is to develop and institute and enforce timing rules on immediate actions.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan With the greater understanding of your position afforded by your comment on your own answer, I have edited this answer somewhat. As I said, I still don’t buy it, but I’ll be less “absolutist” about the possibility of seeing that in the rules. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan May 21 at 18:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Your points about Full Attack are incorrect; in addition to stopping their attacks and taking a Move, they can also take a 5-foot-step and finish their Full Attack. \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso May 21 at 18:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Ifusaso Good point, I always forget about that! Wasn’t a thing for abrupt jaunt thanks to the 10 feet, but it is here. That does go a long way to limiting Psychoportive Talent. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan May 21 at 18:18
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There's no practical guidance on immediate actions

So far as I'm aware, there's no developer commentary on the correct use of immediate actions. All readers have in both Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 and Pathfinder is the (extremely brief, almost telegraphic, borderline opaque) rules and players' interpretations of and opinions on those rules. In fact, to my knowledge there hasn't even been a single written example—long or short—of how a normal combat round works on an action-by-action basis since Wizards of the Coast ended the Web column Game Stoppers in June 2002, well before the creation of the immediate action for the Expanded Psionics Handbook (Apr. 2004). Seriously, at this point in either game's lifecycle, when a group agrees that the rules for immediate actions—and, by extension, the rules for the ready action—work a certain way, that might as well be how they actually do work because, honestly, I doubt that true and practical guidance is forthcoming.

In short, there is no basic unifying rule that describes how immediate actions interact with attacks. Below are two options.

  • Almost all of those attacks can be negated if the group agrees that immediate actions can be taken in the midst of any action, even those that lack rules for being interrupted. Some actions like movement and casting a spell are started, have rules for them being interrupted, then finished. Other actions, like attacks, don't have clear rules for interrupting them.

    The ready action rules say that when the triggered action would interrupt an action that has no rules for its interruption that the ready action is taken before the action it's interrupting. The immediate action rules are silent on when they occur except to say that they can occur at any time.

    Using a reading that allows immediate actions to interrupt actions with no rules for interrupting them means that the GM must adjudicate at what point the immediate action occurs as well as the results of the interruption.

    Example

    The GM must answer at what point an attack is interrupted. The game says only that "[a]n attack roll represents your attempt to strike your opponent on your turn in a round… If your result equals or beats the target’s Armor Class, you hit and deal damage." Using this reading of immediate actions, the GM must decide the order of operations of an attack and ask the player when the immediate action occurs. For instance, one GM may rule that the attacker declares a target then brings the weapon to bear then swings at the target then deals the target damage. That GM may allow an immediate action to be used at any time to interrupt any link in that chain. However, because the rules are vague on the chain itself, the chain is largely in the GM's hands.

    Simpler example

    The PCs are caught in a fireball. The DM's asks the PCs for saving throws. The PCs all fail their saving throws. The DM rolls damage. It's a lot. Before one player applies the damage to his PC's hp, though, the player says, "My PC takes an immediate action to use the psychoportive talent trait to move out of the area." The GM must determine whether or not the psion is still dealt the damage or if the player had to declare that his PC was taking that immediate action sooner to avoid the damage and at what point that declaration would've had to've been made.

    A GM that rules that an immediate action that interrupts an action with no rules for its interruption instead occurs before the action it's interrupting eliminates such ad-hoc adjudication, but such a ruling makes immediate actions more versatile than the ready action, as the ready action takes A) a standard action that B) mandates a trigger.

  • Only in one case can some of those attacks can be negated if the group agrees that immediate actions can be taken only after resolving actions that have no rules for their interruption. In such a group, immediate actions are less versatile than the ready action as they can only occur only after events that can't be interrupted instead of during them—unless the immediate action itself says otherwise. In the question, numbers 1—4 and 6–8 can't be negated, but number 5 can see a foe's remaining attacks wasted if, after the attacker's first attack, the defender uses the trait psychoportive talent.

    Example

    The GM says, "It's the monster's turn." Then, while rolling the d20, the GM says, "The monster's attack… hits you and deals 10 points of damage." The PC could've used the trait psychoportive talent when the monster's turn was announced or after the monster finished its attack, but the PC couldn't use it during the monster's attack. There're no rules for interrupting an attack as the attack roll represents an attack either missing the target or hitting the target and dealing damage.

    Complicated example

    The GM says, "It's the evoker's turn. He wiggles his fingers as if starting to cast a spell. When he finishes finger, a red bead streaks from his outstretched hand and explodes in your midst—everybody make saving throws to take only half the 59 damage." The PC could've used the trait psychoportive talent when the evoker's turn was announced, when the evoker started the spell, or after the effects of the spell were resolved, but finishing casting causes the spell to come into effect, and by then it's too late to avoid the spell.

    This ruling significantly reigns in the versatility of immediate actions.

This GM has tried both ways and vastly prefers the latter because it's so much easier to adjudicate. (For example, see this answer.) From my reading, though, many others prefer the former. To each their own.

(Also, keep in mind that, for the question's issue #2, an attacker that takes the full attack action can take a 5-ft. step during that full attack action. Thus, using either option, an attacker can pursue a defender that uses the trait psychoportive talent and continue its attack routine.)


Note: Readers may recognize that opening paragraph from my answer here.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Suggestions for improvement welcome. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan May 21 at 13:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ One thing that I think would improve this answer would be to elucidate how you justify a timing distinction between readied actions and immediate actions, which your first bullet point implies. If there is time enough for a readied action to be possible, how is that point in time not “any time” per the immediate-action rules? Or, if it isn’t “any time,” how can readied actions happen, or if they don’t, what does the parallel drawn to readied actions signify? In short, you seem to allow readied actions to occur at points in time where you do not allow immediate actions, and I’m not sure how. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan May 21 at 17:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ (That is, under the rules, as opposed to as a houserule, which I’ve never objected to. If this answer was “these are the official rules, but they’re bad and here is my well-tested houserule that addresses those problems and here are all the problems it avoids,” that is an answer I would upvote rather than downvote.) \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan May 21 at 17:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan My position: The readied action can interrupt actions, but not all actions have rules for being interrupted. (Movement does, for example, and casting a spell does, but most others don't.) Taking either a ready or immediate action to interrupt an action with rules for its interruption is easy. However, when a ready action is triggered by an action without rules for interrupting it, the trigger causes it to be taken before the action. The immediate action rules have no such language, so, at my tables, the immediate action must happen after uninterruptible actions are resolved. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan May 21 at 17:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ That is by far the clearest you have made that point, at least for me. I don’t really buy it but at least I see how it could be there. The “immediate action rules have no [rule about coming before un-interruptable actions]” distinction should absolutely be in this answer, IMO. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan May 21 at 18:00

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