While holding a quarterstaff, can you cast an immediate action spell with somatic components (such as Saving Finale) while ending your turn holding the staff in two hands?

I have a player that claims that you're able to, the logic being that you can switch from two-handed to holding it in one hand as a free action and you can take "one or more free actions while taking another action normally" according to D20pfsrd FAQ switching from a two-handed to a one-handed stance is a free action.

The logic behind not being able to do it is that you're not able to begin casting the spell if you don't have a free hand.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Does your table allow creatures that speak (a free action that can explicitly be taken off-turn) to take other free actions simultaneously with speaking? Like, for instance, a guy possesses the feat Quick Draw—can that guy scream off-turn then also draw a weapon, drop prone, then drop that weapon, all also off-turn because he screamed? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 15, 2020 at 20:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Very good observation, I will ask around to see! \$\endgroup\$
    – Simon
    Dec 15, 2020 at 20:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ Probable dupe: Can a character take a free action outside of their turn? Does that answer your question? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 15, 2020 at 20:48
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I would argue that this is not a duplicate: the linked question asks if you can take a free action whenever you feel like it. This question, very reasonably in my mind, asks if doing it as part of/in preparation for an immediate action is an exception. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Dec 15, 2020 at 21:27

1 Answer 1


Free actions cannot be taken outside your turn, and the rules don’t allow for any exceptions to this—but there are cases where I feel exceptions should be.

For example, many features allow for free-action follow-ups to one’s attacks. Grappling,1 for example, basically relies upon it. If you cannot take a free action outside of your turn, it means that attacks of opportunity cannot use these features, even when they can trigger them. I think this is poor for the game, and so I allow these kinds of free actions to occur when triggered, even outside one’s turn.

Likewise, free actions necessary to use reactive abilities—e.g. attacks of opportunity and immediate actions—are something I routinely allow. For example, this answer discusses letting go of a polearm to punch someone.1 This is a very analogous situation.

I would strongly recommend allowing a caster to do this. Frankly, banning it feels like a very un-fun “gotcha” that just doesn’t add anything to the game. The spellcaster could have just held the quarterstaff in one hand the whole time—to say “ah, you forgot to say you were letting one hand off of the quarterstaff after you finished attacking last turn, so no immediate-action spell for you!” is just... not great GMing, in my opinion. That kind of thing might well make me reevaluate whether or not I was actually interested in playing this game.

So just let them let go for the spell, as if they’d let go at the end of their turn. Officially, they “should have” missed out on the opportunity to take attacks of opportunity, but most spellcasters aren’t very good at those anyway. So letting them have both those and immediate-action spells is fine. And if they’ve actually built for attacks of opportunity with their quarterstaff, I see no reason to throw a wrench in their plans—that’s not exactly a high-power approach that I’d feel needs to be toned down.

  1. Both of these links are to questions about D&D 3.5e, not Pathfinder, but the relevant rules in each case are the same.
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    \$\begingroup\$ I pretty strongly disagree with your assessment that it might seem like a "gotcha", and your reasoning for allowing it. It seems like this is a situation where a player is trying to double-dip as it were, by eliminating the opportunity cost of either setting up for an AOO or having the ability to cast a spell as an immediate action. Besides, spellcasting is already incredibly powerful, no need to make it even more so by allowing these kinds of shenanigans. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 15, 2020 at 21:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RevenantBacon I’m saying that opportunity cost is stupid and adds nothing to the game. It’s not worth remembering to worry about. Having to consider that every turn—or forgetting to do so and missing out because you elided such a trivial matter—is just bad for the game, it wastes time and causes un-fun. The relative power of spellcasting is a fair concern, but being able to make attacks of opportunity or not is not going to substantially change life for full spellcasters. But it might for a far less powerful class like magus or paladin. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Dec 15, 2020 at 21:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ I suppose that's a fair way to look at it. Not likely that most full casters will really do anything substantial on an AOO anyways. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 15, 2020 at 22:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RevenantBacon and I agree: A caster should make the choice on his turn whether he plans, between turns, to smack someone with his staff (and keep it in 2 hands) or not and do something else (and keep the staff in one hand). This isn't a gotcha, but a choice a warrior makes with his weapon all the time. Further, the lack of martial options in this regard makes giving everyone a 1- or 2-handed off-turn option is an unneeded power-up for casters (no matter how small). Also, in my 3.5 experience, monsters that make off-turn grapples are way more difficult challenges. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 16, 2020 at 6:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan I’m aware, and I get it. Your games have generally seemed to be a bit more intense with the tactical combat than mine, so I defer to your expertise when considering how things can go when pushed. But in my experience, 3.5e just... doesn’t handle a whole lot of pushing well anyway, and my groups basically just get by by avoiding doing so. I simply don’t want to waste game-time forcing players to make this choice every turn. Turns take too long as it is. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Dec 17, 2020 at 14:53

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