The haste spell grants an extra attack when a character makes a full attack.

My DM says:

If you do a single attack and can't continue into a full attack, it's a standard attack, even if you don't use your move action for the turn. You're not full-attacking, so you can't benefit from haste.

The only thing he could provide as "proof" is that if you want to make more than one attack, you need a full attack action, but this does not look like a proof to me: nothing is said about being able to declare that a single attack is a full attack when you don't need it (no high BAB, no flurry of blows, no two-weapon fighting, no multiple natural weapons and so on), thus gaining the benefits of haste even in that case.

My DM does not want to rule based on examples, suh as monster/NPC statblocks (e.g. the elf statblock has a full attack made of a single attack) because they're famous for being badly written and also because the most recent statblocks got rid of the attack / full attack lines replacing it with melee / ranged.

Is there any better definition of what a full attack is that states or strongly implies that a character can do a single attack, that could take him just a standard action, as a full attack?

  • \$\begingroup\$ This question is confusing because there are two separate issues: 1. does the attack from haste “count” towards “[getting] more than one attack per round”? and 2. can you make a full attack, even if you truly only have one attack? The answers to both questions is yes, but because the answer to 1 is yes, it makes question 2 nonsensical while talking about haste since when you have haste you do not have a single attack. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jan 26 '15 at 21:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Let's stop arguing in comments please. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Feb 12 '15 at 4:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ The attack from haste does not count as having more attacks because of when it triggers. If you don't believe so, just take it as a houserule. \$\endgroup\$ – Zachiel Feb 12 '15 at 21:57

Cue obligatory "The DM is always right. However..."

However, yes, there is such a rule. It's the very first sentence of the "Full Attack" section of the Combat chapter. http://www.d20srd.org/srd/combat/actionsInCombat.htm#fullAttack

If you get more than one attack per round because your base attack bonus is high enough, because you fight with two weapons or a double weapon or for some special reason you must use a full-round action to get your additional attacks. You do not need to specify the targets of your attacks ahead of time. You can see how the earlier attacks turn out before assigning the later ones.

emphasis mine.

You have haste, which adds one attack per round, plus you have the ability to make at least one attack baseline. That adds up to two, which is "more than one", so the very sentence your GM is citing in his reasoning is the explicit statement you're looking for to counter him.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This addresses the case of haste, but not, I think, the fundamental question of whether or not you are ever prevented from using the full attack option due to not having sufficient attacks. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jan 26 '15 at 21:26

Bottom Line

  1. A full attack is not something granted because you have multiple attacks, it is the required action to take advantage of them. You can always make a full-attack, even if you see no benefit for doing so.

  2. A character with haste, by definition, has multiple attacks. Thus, they not only can use a full attack (as usual), but they must if they wish to use the extra attack granted by haste.

Thorough rules breakdown:

SRD > Combat > Actions in Combat

The Combat Round

In a normal round, you can [...] perform a full-round action.

This establishes that full-round actions are not any kind of special case; they are a normal option for how you spend your turn.

Full-Round Actions

A full-round action requires an entire round to complete. Thus, it can’t be coupled with a standard or a move action, though if it does not involve moving any distance, you can take a 5-foot step.

This establishes some parameters for the use of full-round actions. Note that it does not put any restrictions on the use of full-round actions other than the things you are not allowed to use at the same time. That is, a full-round action is always an option, provided you have not used a move or standard action this round (and, in the case of full-round actions that involve movement, have not used a 5-ft-step).

Full Attack

If you get more than one attack per round because your base attack bonus is high enough, because you fight with two weapons or a double weapon or for some special reason you must use a full-round action to get your additional attacks.

This establishes situations in which you are required to use a full attack. It does not discuss any situation in which you are required not to use a full attack. Notably, it never puts any special limitations on when you use a full attack beyond the usual requirements full-round actions.

The remainder of the full attack entry1 is irrelevant here. It just discusses various details related to the actual use of a full attack once you have chosen to use one.

And that’s literally every relevant rule on this topic. None of them put any requirement on the use of a full attack, aside from the normal requirements for full-round actions (i.e. not in the same turn as a move or standard action). Therefore, since full-round actions are a normal option for your turn, and a full attack is a full-round action like any other, and nothing puts any limitations on it,

You may always use a full attack, regardless of number of attacks

Yes, you can use a full attack even when you only get one attack. Doing so prevents you from using your move action, and provides absolutely no benefit, but you’re still allowed to, if you want. For instance, if you had a feat or class feature that started “When you take a full attack action,” that feat or class feature would be triggered by such a single-attack full attack, but not by a standard-action attack (even though they’re the same number of attacks).

Also, for completeness, this is all moot in the case of haste – if you have haste, you have more than one attack anyway, and therefore are required to use a full attack in order to get that extra attack. The rules don’t care where the attacks are coming from, and in fact specifically talk about multiple attacks “because your base attack bonus is high enough, because you fight with two weapons or a double weapon, or for some special reason,” providing an explicit catch-all for things like haste.

1 For reference, the rest of the full attack entry:

The only movement you can take during a full attack is a 5-foot step. You may take the step before, after, or between your attacks.

If you get multiple attacks because your base attack bonus is high enough, you must make the attacks in order from highest bonus to lowest. If you are using two weapons, you can strike with either weapon first. If you are using a double weapon, you can strike with either part of the weapon first.

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The description of the full attack action very clearly states that after the first attack you can decide to not follow through with all your attacks and instead take a move action. The book is quite clear about the fact that this is an optional decision by the player that is taking the action.

Deciding between an Attack or a Full Attack: After your first attack, you can decide to...

So if your DM is making this decision for you, that's not backed by the rules. This decision is up to the player that is taking said action.

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D&D 3.5e's actions use a prescriptive design: you choose your action first, and that prescribes what you can and can't do during it execution. What your DM seems to be doing is reinterpreting the entire combat system to be a descriptive design: "do stuff", and then figure out after the fact what actions that stuff adds up to.1

Full attack is an action type; specifically, it's a type of full-round action. Once you've chosen that action to take, you can't (and your DM can't, barring high-flying rampant fiat) convert it into a different action type after the fact. If you chose the full attack action, you're making a full attack, not a standard attack, even if all your attacks during the action are somehow prevented — you can't "switch" to a different action type after committing to a full attack action.

That's the alpha and omega of the matter. You can get into fiddly obscure interpretations of the contents of each action's rules, but in the end that doesn't matter: you pick the action type first, then that choice is locked-in and you do (or don't do) it.

  1. This would be a legit sort of house rule to have, but it vastly and subtly alters the dynamic of combat and should be recognised as a deliberate house rule, not be the result of misinterpretation or thought of as the normal way the game works.
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  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Technically, in a very-weird reversal of the usual pattern you describe, you can (assuming you have a move and standard action available) make one attack, and then decide to continue the full-attack by using your move action, or else decide to abort it, leaving it as a standard-action attack and allowing you to use your move action for something else. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jan 26 '15 at 20:58

As far as I know, the rules never come out and say explicitly what I'm about to say, but in my understanding, it is at least implied.

An attack action is a standard action, unless it is part of a full attack action (or Attack of Opportunity or granted from a feat or class ability). Often times the rules state an attack is a standard action, though I don't read that as necessarily precluding it from being used as part of a full attack action.

For example, "Throwing a light or one-handed weapon is a standard action..." does not prevent a creature from throwing a weapon as part of a full attack action. This understanding is supported by the text in the Quickdraw feat; "A character who has selected this feat may throw weapons at his full normal rate of attacks...".

On the other hand, the feat Manyshot states "As a standard action, you may fire two arrows..." This seems to be commonly understood to be limited to a standard action and there isn't an example of it used as an attack in a full attack action (although this is changed in Pathfinder)

All this to say, thus after the first iterative attack or natural attack, you have the option of foregoing any additional attacks, and it is a standard action (and you can then take a move or move-equivalent action), or, alternatively, continue with additional attacks as a full attack action. To keep this option available with two-weapon fighting or flurry; you need to take the penalty on your initial attack. (This is also not mentioned, but follows from the modifiers that apply to an attack or flurry.)

I guess it's really semantics; you could declare a full attack action, then forego additional attacks to convert it to a standard action, or you can assume the attack action isn't defined as either standard or full until you decide what to do after the first attack, but the end result is the same.

As far as how this applies to haste, I can see how your DM came to that conclusion, but I don't think the rules support it. He's arguing you can't take a full attack action with only one attack, which I'm inclined to agree with, but haste grants you an additional attack, thus now you can (or rather, have to in order to gain the additional attack). Would he argue that if you used two-weapon fighting you could take advantage of the extra attack from haste but not otherwise? Seems a bit unfair, right?

As far as "rules-as-written" is concerned, I am of the understanding that the 3.5 rules are not explicit enough to obviate all need for interpretation. In other words, there are times when the DM has to make a call. In my opinion, this call is more of 'looking for loopholes' rather than 'looking for intent'.

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