In combat today we were facing a medium mud elemental and it used earth glide to disappear from view (go underground). I had long arm so my reach was 10 feet. I readied an action to attack it as soon at it reappeared within my reach.

It popped up and entered into my area which set off my readied action.

At this point it then moves towards me to attack. Am I flat-footed to it at this point? This is important because AOOs cant be made when flat-footed unless you have combat reflexes.

  • \$\begingroup\$ How long was it between the mud elemental disappearing using earth glide and the mud elemental reappearing within your threatened area? The same round? A week? That is, when the mud elemental disappeared, did the GM declare that the encounter was over? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 11, 2017 at 22:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Encounter was not over, it disappeared and then reappeared the next round \$\endgroup\$
    – Fering
    Feb 11, 2017 at 22:33

2 Answers 2


Unless a creature is later affected by a specific effect that renders it flat-footed, as soon as a creature's had the chance to act during an encounter (typically by taking its turn when it's allowed to on its initiative count), the creature is no longer flat-footed and remains not flat-footed until the encounter ends. The disappearance of an enemy (or of all enemies!) does not instantly return the creature to its beginning-of-encounter-before-its-initiative-count flat-footed condition. For example, the typical dragonslayer won't lower his guard just because the flying dragon whipped around a nearby hill!

In short, in this scenario, since the creature that readied must have had a chance to act during the encounter previously—else the creature wouldn't've been able to take the action ready!—, the ready action should've triggered upon the mud elemental's appearance within the creature's threatened area if the creature that took the action ready picked Attack the freakin' mud elemental as the action and If the slimeball appears where I can hit it as the trigger.

As no rules govern precisely when an encounter ends, I've found that it's usually the GM who determines when an encounter ends. A GM must use this power wisely, though. Unless the GM wants the PCs using similar hit-and-run tactics, the GM should not say that an encounter ends when an enemy disappears then have that enemy that vanished 6 seconds ago gain a surprise round on the PCs.

  • \$\begingroup\$ You're flatfooted until you've had your first regular turn in the initiative order. It's possible to ready an action before that, just improbable. It's clear from your comments the querent in this case did not, though. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 11, 2017 at 23:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer Is readying an action outside combat a thing in Pathfinder? The Dungeon Master's Guide for D&D 3.5e specifically prohibits that (page 26 saying, "Don’t allow players to use the ready action outside combat"), but it's in a section that didn't make it to the SRD, so I don't know if it's buried somewhere in Pathfinder that, unlike in its ancestor, a creature can. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 11, 2017 at 23:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't know. What I do know is that you can spend a hero point to act immediately, which you could use to ready an action without yet having a regular turn, and then that action could be triggered. You also could have been fighting in a previous combat, readied an action to strike when an underground opponent emerged, and then have that combat end with the party being teleported elsewhere into a new combat with an emerging mud elemental. I'm reasonably confident other weird-edge-cases exist. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 11, 2017 at 23:37
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer Hero points, though, are an optional rule, and I don't know if, as a GM, that I'd actually rule one encounter ended and a new encounter's started if the PCs teleported from one battle straight to another battle! Anyway, I'm largely against addressing edge cases in answers like this because I'm already annoyed at the sheer number of weasel words I must use to account for exceptions, but thank you and (ahem) point taken. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 11, 2017 at 23:50

Flat-Footed: At the start of a battle, before you have had a chance to act (specifically, before your first regular turn in the initiative order), you are flat-footed. You can't use your Dexterity bonus to AC (if any) while flat-footed. Barbarians and rogues of high enough level have the uncanny dodge extraordinary ability, which means that they cannot be caught flat-footed. Characters with uncanny dodge retain their Dexterity bonus to their AC and can make attacks of opportunity before they have acted in the first round of combat. A flat-footed character can't make attacks of opportunity, unless he has the Combat Reflexes feat. (source)

It sounds like several rounds of combat passed before the elemental sank into the mud. As long as you got at least one regular turn before readying your attack action, which you very probably did, and as long as this is the same combat, you are not flat-footed. It sounds like you might be confusing flat-footed-ness with being surprised or otherwise 'unable to react to a blow'.

Sometimes you can’t use your Dexterity bonus (if you have one). If you can’t react to a blow, you can’t use your Dexterity bonus to AC. If you don’t have a Dexterity bonus, your AC does not change. (source)

It's up to your GM to decide when you can and can't 'react to a blow'. Regardless, losing your Dexterity bonus to AC is not the same as being flat-footed and does not mean you also will be unable to make attacks of opportunity.


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