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The question is about action economy. I want to know whether you need to finish a continuous action to start an instant action. I am only interested in RAW answers and combat applications, where you measure time in turns, not as a freeform narration.

Particular usage:

Alyssa the thief wants to steal keys from one of the two guards. Borok, the barbarian picks a fight with the other one as a diversion. While they are having a go at each other, Alyssa would like to sneak past the guard, stealing the keys while on the way. She uses a move action to sneak and a standard one to steal the keys. The "safe spot" she wants to reach is within her normal sneaking distance for a single move action. Does she have to sneak behind the guard, steal the keys and then wait until her next move action to sneak away, or can she do it in one swift motion?

Example 2: Arg the orc jumped on a warg mount. The mount is rowdy, so he needs to use his move action to control him in combat. He commands him to charge and overrun an opponent, but he also wants to slash him with his bardiche, a reach weapon. Can Arg swing his bardiche in time while the mount is charging or does he have to wait until he finishes movement? Or, does he need to wait until the warg finishes the whole charge-and-overrun combo?

Example 3: Zif the mage casts a spell for a full turn. He also needs to take a 5-foot step. He wants to start casting in one square, but finish in the other one because of reasons. Does he have to either take a step before or after casting or can he take that step mid-sentence?

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In general, actions are atomic operations: each must complete before another can start. There are some explicit exceptions, however. Interrupting actions (e.g. immediate actions, attacks of opportunity, readied attacks) are one class of exceptions. Five-foot steps can occur during full-round actions. Talking can happen at any time at all. In other cases, feats or class features allow certain actions to interrupt certain others that they usually couldn’t. But all of these are explicitly stated in the text.

Alyssa has to stop unless she has Spring Attack and Quick Steal

A standard action cannot happen in the middle of a move action under usual conditions. Certain feats (e.g. Flyby Attack) change this for certain kinds of movement, but none do for walking.

Spring Attack does let you make a single attack while moving on the ground, but Steal is a standard action, not a single attack as, say, Trip is. The Quick Steal feat fixes that, however, making Steal an attack replacement and allowing it to work with Spring Attack.

Arg may attack; he already finished his Move action

Arg’s move action was to command his mount; the actual movement comes from his mount’s full-round action (specifically, Charge). Thus, he is free to attack when he gets in reach.

Zif may move during the casting

From the definition of a full-round action

The only movement you can take during a full-round action is a 5-foot step before, during, or after the action.

This line exists, unfortunately. I say unfortunately, because it’s entirely unclear what happens when you do this in the middle of casting a full-round action spell. Do you provoke attacks of opportunity from both squares? I’d guess probably yes, but it doesn’t say that anywhere. Plus, what happens if you have some way of moving as a swift action: can you not use that, because five-foot steps are the “only” movement you’re allowed while taking a full-round action? All of this is unclear.

Note that this is a change in Pathfinder relative to 3.5; in 3.5, you could take five-foot steps during a full-attack (between attacks), but not otherwise.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Yes, it did; it appears there is a very-recent FAQ on this matter that effectively breaks mounted combat. You see, the FAQ states that you have to spend the same actions that your mount spends for anything you order your mount to do. Furthermore, it is always a Move action to command a mount, even if it is combat-trained; only animal companions are exempt from that. So, for example, charging on a mount is now, under the Pathfinder official rules, impossible unless the mount is an animal companion. I... am not sure how to work this into my answer. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Mar 17 '15 at 14:35

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