The fighter archetype, Crossbowman, has abilities called deadshot and greater deadshot. These abilities give bonus damage on crossbow attacks that come from readied actions.

This gave me an interesting idea that I could use to increase damage dealt to enemies with high DR, or with high dex-based AC. I was not able to find any restrictions on readied actions that would prevent me from declaring my readied action on the action of the next guy in initiative order. I would be able to get a deadshot every turn without losing my spot in initiative order.

The situation that I'm trying to clarify goes like this:

There are 2 people in the combat, it's a 1v1 where I use a readied action every single turn.
The condition: "if the enemy does anything"
The action: "shoot him in the face"
Theoretically I should be able to do readied actions forever, never losing my spot in turn order. This isn't exclusive to 1v1s, this would work in a fight at any scale regardless of turn order.

Is there any rule I missed that would prevent this?

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ "If the enemy does anything" - does that include breathing? Standing? Looking around? Existing? As a GM, I'd ask for something a little more specific. I'm also dubious of "When Grog does anything, I shoot Thog" constructs. \$\endgroup\$ – Greenstone Walker May 4 '15 at 22:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ The specific wording of the readied action isn't important for the purposes of this question. "When X takes any action" might be a better wording, but the question isn't about the specific wording. \$\endgroup\$ – DuckTapeAl May 4 '15 at 22:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GreenstoneWalker If a GM asked me "does that include breathing?" I could respond yes, that's actually good because it prevents the counter-play of the opponent also readying an action, or delaying, or doing nothing. Thanks :) \$\endgroup\$ – Stephan May 4 '15 at 23:34

The PF SRD's section on readying an action doesn't appear to have any FAQs, errata, or other clarifying information that would require you to name a condition more specific than "the next guy in initiative order does something." That said, if someone abuses this, the other side of the table might devise counter-strategies, such as:

  • House-rule that the trigger for a readied action must be a specific action or group of actions (such as "attack", "cast a spell", "move", etc.) Granted, the whole table needs to be on board with house rules, and it might come with abuses/debates of its own ("A 5-foot step isn't a move action so it doesn't trigger your readied action!")
  • Turnabout is fair play -- create an opponent (or more than one!) that's also a Crossbowman and have them use the same tactics.
  • The target sees the Crossbowman is watching them like a hawk, so they delay their own action -- possibly while their allies set up a plan of their own.
  • Entropic Shield, Protection from Arrows, or any other spells that might ruin a ranged attacker's day. Since it might come across as specifically punishing the Crossbowman (and anyone else ranged on his side), this is a harsh one. Though you might combine it with the previous point -- if you took the shot when you had the chance instead of readying, you could've tagged them before they got the buff!

You can absolutely Deadshot each round. This is a bad idea.

Like you say, nothing in the rules prevents you from readying an action to act just before the next person in initiative order, and using your deadshot each round. You can use a condition like "When (next person) takes any action, I fire my crossbow" and the rules say that what you're doing will work. However, doing this will significantly decrease how much damage you do in a combat, and will likely decrease your overall usefulness.

Remember that you can only make a single attack with a readied action. If you use Crossbow Mastery and Rapid Shot, you're making a whole bunch of attacks each round. Your Crossbow Expert feature means that you don't need to be as concerned with the -2 from Rapid Shot, so you're going to be making 3 attacks per round by the time your get Improved Deadshot. With Improved Deadshot, you are making one attack that denies your opponent their Dex and does, at best, +2 or 3 damage. You can probably crank that up with more Dex bonus stuff, and you might convince your GM to let you apply Focused Shot as well, but you're still just getting one attack with a moderate bonus. At 20th level with a whole bunch of Dex and Int bonuses, you're choosing 5 iteratives that deal 1d10+2 or so for a single attack that deals 1d10+9 or so, depending on your specific bonuses.

The real problem here is that crossbows in Pathfinder are really bad. Here is a post describing some of the problems with crossbows versus longbows. Basically, you need extra feats to make them nearly as good, but a character with a bow will always be doing more damage than a similar character with a crossbow.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The reason I asked is because this would SIGNIFICANTLY increase damage output against bosses with high DR, in general you wouldn't want to do this, I know. \$\endgroup\$ – Stephan May 4 '15 at 23:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, thanks for the links and advice, yeah I know this build probably sucks. It was just a theorycrafted idea, I didn't actually play this character. \$\endgroup\$ – Stephan May 4 '15 at 23:30

Keep in mind that readying an action DOES change your initiative to just before the person you would be interrupting.

Initiative Consequences of Readying: Your initiative result becomes the count on which you took the readied action. If you come to your next action and have not yet performed your readied action, you don't get to take the readied action (though you can ready the same action again).

It doesn't explicitly say this in the rules but it helps to be really clear with the conditions under which you readied action will trigger. "If X Target(s) take Y action my character will respond with Z action"

For example: "If either Pete or Bob move, I will attack them with my Crossbow"

From that point you can get as specific as you want, for example "If Pete or Bob would move out of line of sight of me, I attack them with my Crossbow" or "If either Pete or Bob move OR if either of them begins to cast a spell I attack them with my Crossbow"

It also helps to write down your readied action when you take it, I use index cards.


To ready an action you must specify the action you wish to take, and the condition under which you will take it. In that scenario you are stating your action is to target an individual (you would not specify the "next in the initiative order" but that would be the individual you are targeting), however you are missing the condition.

The point being that you only get the action in response to the condition being triggered. Thus you may not always get your 'deadshot every turn'. To counter this though, you could specify "I would like to ready an action against this guy, if he makes a move in anyway I am going to shoot him" (Thus you are still open to being countered should he choose to do absolutely nothing, but the odds are significantly in your favor).

Aside from that I see no rule preventing you from doing that, you just simply need to state a condition and the condition gets triggered.

  • \$\begingroup\$ My condition is "If X does anything" and my action is "Shoot Y" (X is the next guy in order, and Y is the target) \$\endgroup\$ – Stephan Sep 19 '14 at 1:04
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ What if X doesn't do anything, because he's using the same strategy and waiting for you to make a move before he does anything? You could draw the entire combat into a Mexican standoff! \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Sep 19 '14 at 4:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GMJoe now that would be some fun roleplaying \$\endgroup\$ – Stephan Sep 19 '14 at 18:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GMJoe I swear there was a 1-on-1 example of this in one of the D&D 3e core books (can't seem to find it in the 3.5 PHB, at least), though I think it was using Delay instead of Ready. Essentially, the rules forced one character to take an action. \$\endgroup\$ – AgentAquarius May 5 '15 at 5:05

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