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I believe you can, but apparently not everyone agrees. Please refer to the feat description:

When using an attack action with a melee weapon, the character can move both before and after the attack, provided that the total distance moved is not greater than the character’s speed.

Note that the feat refers to only a single (attack) action, and does not say the character may/must take an additional move action. The movement described is part of the attack action. In fact, that's pretty much the entire point of the feat. Spring Attack allows you to both move and make an attack with a standard action. Here are some ramifications of having Spring Attack:

  1. You can ready a standard action to make a Spring Attack, moving and attacking as that single standard action. This is an enormous boon when melee-fighting spellcasters. That more players don't realize this is a big part of why spellcasters are mistakenly perceived as so much more overpowered than they actually are.

  2. In one round, you can move the equivalent distance of a charge and still attack, but you need not do so in a straight line. Also, you don't get the bonuses/penalties of a charge and your effective attack range is 5' shy of your total movement, since you must move that distance after your attack.

If you think that's great, you are correct. Why do you think Spring Attack requires two "tax" feats before you can take it?

So, do you think I'm wrong? Does a Spring Attack require both a Standard Action and a Move Action to perform, or just a Standard Action?


ADDENDUM:

Compare how the Spring Attack feat is written compared to how the Overrun special attack is written, as follows:

A character can attempt an overrun as an attack action made during his or her move action, or as part of a charge.

The Overrun write-up is fairly clear on the point that the special attack is a separate action from the move action. The Spring Attack write-up, however, phrases what most people seem to think is an equivalent mechanism in a very different way. If an Overrun-like interpretation were correct, why not just use equivalent language?

In Pathfinder they describe Spring Attack as a full-round action, and its writeup is much less ambiguous. But Pathfinder is not D&D 3.5.

The thing that gets me is almost everyone who supports the separate "move and attack actions" interpretation agree that the feat as they interpret it is, to put it charitably, "Sub-par". It isn't worth taking two "tax" feats, one of which (Dodge) is almost universally reviled. Yet the "unified move and attack as single action" interpretation makes such worthwhile. Between two possible interpretations of an ambiguous phrase, isn't the one that works better preferable?


It's been put forward that because Spring Attack requires 5' of movement before the attack, with the implication that this 5' of movement can't be part of the Spring Attack action itself. I confess I don't follow the logic of this argument. By my interpretation, both the movement before and after the attack are part of the attack action.


Okay, apparently something printed in the Special Edition of the 3.5 Player's Handbook directly contradicts my argument. I don't have access to it to confirm it, but as much as I hate to lose an argument it's not worth it to me to purchase a copy. So I concede and retract my argument.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ By your interpretation, you're using movement that is a benefit of Spring Attack. Spring Attack itself says that you don't get any benefits of Spring Attack unless you move before and after. If you don't have any benefits, where is this movement you have to use to qualify for Spring Attack coming from? \$\endgroup\$ – Tridus Oct 21 '14 at 13:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Still not getting your point. Are you saying that you have to move 5' as a separate action before getting the benefit of Spring Attack? Then what about the 5' after the attack? \$\endgroup\$ – Epiphanis Oct 21 '14 at 14:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ You have to move 5' before and after the spring attack to get the benefit of spring attack. That's what the feat says. You can do that if you're using a move action, since you have movement before and after the feat applies. Without that, you have no way of doing that initial movement, because you have no benefit of the feat yet (including any movement you contend the feat gives). You can't use a benefit of the feat to meet the feat's conditions for getting the benefit of the feat. The "after" part is also a condition, but you do that after the attack by definition. \$\endgroup\$ – Tridus Oct 21 '14 at 14:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Epiphanis I really do admire your tenacity of defending this feat chain. House-rule it my good man. \$\endgroup\$ – Ruut Oct 21 '14 at 15:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Epiphanis Yep. :) Unfortunately that's how 3.5 goes sometimes, there is text that can in good faith be read to mean different things. I've never seen them issue any other clarification on this feat. Nature of the beast, unfortunately. \$\endgroup\$ – Tridus Oct 21 '14 at 15:35
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The Special Edition PHB disambiguates the wording. Some people refer to this as "stealth errata" since it doesn't seem to have made it into any other sources, nor was it conspicuously announced anywhere. Even the SRD doesn't seem to have been updated to contain the new wording. Nevertheless, it makes the intent of the feat clear. Emphasis mine:

When using the attack action with a melee weapon, you can split your move action in that round in order to move both before and after the attack, provided that your total distance moved is not greater than your speed. Moving in this way does not provoke an attack of opportunity from the defender you attack, though it might provoke attacks of opportunity from other creatures, if appropriate. You can't use this feat if you are wearing heavy armor.

You must move at least 5 feet both before and after you make your attack in order to utilize the benefits of Spring Attack.

Notably, this is still not the same as Pathfinder's implementation: instead of combining the attack and move into a single full-round action, it keeps them as two distinct actions but allows you to apply them in an unusual way (much like the Overrun writeup that you cite). But neither implementation allows you to make a spring attack using a single standard action.

If you want to houserule Spring Attack to take a single standard action, go right ahead. No one will stop you. I might consider such a thing myself in my game, if it ever comes up. But that's not RAW, and in one of those rare cases where RAI is demonstrable, it's not RAI.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Your link is about Scouts and doesn't seem relevant to what you were saying. \$\endgroup\$ – Tridus Oct 21 '14 at 13:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ The relevant stuff is further down the page. I'll modify the link to go straight to the post. \$\endgroup\$ – The Spooniest Oct 21 '14 at 13:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't have the Special Edition, but I'm going to go out on a limb a say I don't trust the authority of "stealth errata." Still, it is a point. \$\endgroup\$ – Epiphanis Oct 21 '14 at 13:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Epiphanis It's printed in the most recent update of the Player's Handbook for D&D 3.5 for which there is no errata. There is, seriously, no authority higher. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Oct 21 '14 at 16:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ What not even God? Or Oprah? But okay, I don't have access to it and frankly thought it was the same text with a stupid overpriced leather cover until this morning. So if somebody on the Internet tells me it says other stuff that proves me wrong... I guess I concede. I retract my argument. \$\endgroup\$ – Epiphanis Oct 21 '14 at 17:23
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You Need To Use A Move Action

The way this feat works isn't how you describe. It requires using a move action to move, and a standard action to attack. As for why, I'll refer to the line of the feat you omitted:

You must move at least 5 feet both before and after you make your attack in order to utilize the benefits of Spring Attack.

You have to move 5' before you get any benefits of Spring Attack. So even if your interpretation is correct and it gives you movement, you have to move before you get that movement, since that movement is a benefit of Spring Attack. You have to use a move action to get that movement, since a 5 foot step doesn't let you take any other movement:

You can move 5 feet in any round when you don’t perform any other kind of movement. Taking this 5-foot step never provokes an attack of opportunity. You can’t take more than one 5-foot step in a round, and you can’t take a 5-foot step in the same round when you move any distance.

So in the absolute best case scenario here, you use your move action to move, then get extra movement from Spring Attack when you use your standard action to attack. But even that isn't how it works in any game I've ever seen or heard of. All Spring Attack lets you do is break up the normal order of move > attack or attack > move, such that you can do move > attack > move.

Because of that, you can't ready action a spring attack.

Why It Sucks

Spring Attack has a lot of problems:

  1. It costs three feats. One of them (Dodge) is lousy, but at least can be used in nearly every combat. The other (Mobility) only applies to AoOs, but Spring Attack negates AoOs from your target anyway, so it only does anything if you have to move past something else too. Not worth it.
  2. There are better alternatives. Because it's a standard action attack, you only get one attack. Pounce lets you charge and do a full attack, which is much better (but does constrain class selection in order to get it).
  3. You can't use it if you're wearing heavy armor, which hinders who benefits from it.

Given all that, if you wanted to house rule it to work your way and make it better, I doubt you'd break a whole lot by doing so. It would make it more worth paying the feat tax.

Pathfinder

Just for reference purposes, Pathfinder updated this feat to make it a full round action in order to dispel any ambiguity in that game. That doesn't apply directly to 3.5, but it does make it clearer for PF players.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Mobility is even lousier than Dodge, even ignoring the fact that Spring Attack obviates it. The only advantage of Mobility is you can buy it with the mobility armor property. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Oct 21 '14 at 14:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've homebrewed a "Fencing Academy" that gives those feats for a 3,000 gp fee in the spirit of an Otyugh Hole. I still have players that spend 3,000 gp on other things, including an Otyugh Hole. This feat chain is just doomed to fail, as nearly everyone has pointed out. I am also willing to bet, if a DM even gave all players all three feats as DM granted bonus feats, they would still almost never use them. \$\endgroup\$ – Ruut Oct 21 '14 at 15:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ The value of Dodge and Mobility are separate issues. I actually think Mobility is worthwhile, with or without any interpretation of Spring Attack, but that's a whole separate debate I don't want to go into now. \$\endgroup\$ – Epiphanis Oct 21 '14 at 15:20

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