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There's a PC claims, "Since I haven't moved in this turn, I ready my 5-foot-step after my full-round attack to move to the left (which is still within the enemy's reach) when the enemy attack or cast a spell on me, so it won't hit me if it is targeting my current block" during a 1-on-1 fight.

Does this make the PC invulnerable to non-area effects since no attack can hit him? Or can the enemy ready a retargeting action (e.g. "your enemy readied a free-action to change its target to whatever block you are moving into if you make a 5-foot-step right before his attack hits if that block is still within his reach") as a free action from the next round after observing this technique?

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2 Answers 2

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First of all, while you can ready a free action like 5-foot step, readying itself always takes a standard action. So you can’t do it just because “I haven’t moved in this turn,” you can only do it if you haven’t done much of anything this turn.

But supposing someone has done that, this still provides an imperfect defense.

If you move before the opponent attacks, there is nothing in the rules that says he is still committed to the attack—he could in many cases just say, “oh, well I move 5 feet further then,” and then commence with the attacking.

If you wait until after the target has attacked once, you can take a 5-foot step in the middle of a full attack, so they may well be able to just follow. If not, they haven’t committed to a full attack yet (that explicitly happens after your first attack), so they at least get their move action back. Dropping someone from a full stack to a standard attack is fairly effective, of course, but it isn’t worth your entire turn to do it.

So the answer is kind of “yes, but it isn’t as good as you think.”

If someone gains ability to move more than 5 feet, and can do it as an immediate action without readying, that is an entirely different story. That is extremely powerful, and should be strongly considered for banning. For a 5th-level shadowcaster using the flicker mystery, fine. For a 1st-level wizard with abrupt jaunt, just say no.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Why include the final paragraph? There's no practical guidance (i.e. combat examples) in 3.5 or Pathfinder on exactly how immediate actions work. \$\endgroup\$ May 12, 2023 at 7:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan I don’t see any especial need for examples. The last paragraph is to emphasize that the lack-of-problem with readying 5-foot steps is due to the specifics of that maneuver, but problems can exist with things that work more like the player in question thought this would. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    May 12, 2023 at 12:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yet by using immediate action movement as an example of something that could work the way that the player thought, it implies that immediate action movement does work that way when, in fact,—because the game never gives an example of using immediate action movement in combat—it's unknown that it works that way. \$\endgroup\$ May 12, 2023 at 14:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan I don’t consider it unknown. I think you’re kind of engaging in a little wishful thinking here, that maybe there’s some hidden secret limitation on immediate actions to make them less what they are. I don’t see any evidence supporting that suspicion whatsoever. What we have is, in my opinion, quite conclusive—immediate actions just are that powerful. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    May 12, 2023 at 14:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ All it would take would be starting that last paragraph with At many tables just to hint that one may find variation. If it really were clear, we wouldn't disagree. \$\endgroup\$ May 12, 2023 at 14:46
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Adding on Kryans answer I present you another scenario in which we have used this strategy at our table.

When the player knows that they will be charged from an attacker that is far distant. In this case, as the defendant moves back, the attacker may Simply not have enough movement left to chase and hit them. Backing few meters could be a strategy to "bait" an enemy into a trap (e.g. activated by weight) if they followed you. In this case at our table we ruled that the DM would ask if the attacker wants to chase the target.

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