The three-action system has been one of the most incredible features of Pathfinder Second Edition. It adds a new level of tactical depth that gives our favorite game that true mark of good design: easy to learn, but difficult to master. And while it will take more than a short article to clearly recall every single action available to you when you need it, I’m hoping the same advice I gave back in 2018 can help new and experienced players alike remember more options in combat than that third attack at -10. Just remember GASP: Gear, Aid, Skills and Prepare.
Gear: Flip to your inventory and consider where the battle might go. Remember your consumables, especially stuff you’ve looted since the session started. Using an alchemical item, pulling out an elixir or even drawing a javelin in case the enemy starts to fly away are all perfectly good uses of a third action. Even if you have no use for an item right now, check around the party and see if you don’t have a scroll or potion you could at least draw out of your bag (if not pass to an adjacent ally). And you can always just Raise a Shield.
Aid: Positioning and teamwork is critical in Second Edition. Make sure you are communicating and planning with your party. Let one another know what you plan on doing next, and keep your allies move speeds and action economy in mind when moving across the battlefield. It doesn’t have to be a full-blown conversation in character. The standard adventuring party is a veteran team who have both trained and fought together. They can pick up certain queues between one another, and have an instinct for the battlefield that can be hard to replicate using minis and flip-mats. This doesn’t always mean using the Aid action, but it is more likely to turn a hit into a crit than cause a miss, especially if you are already flanking!
Skills: Did you know there are more combat skills than just Intimidate!? Last month I explained the efficacy of Recall Knowledge. Athletics actions like Grapple and Shove use Multiple Attack Penalty, but it can still be effective against lower-level enemies using Assurance (a free 5t level Pathfinder Training Benefit in Pathfinder Society). Feats add even more utility, including doing some extra damage with Battle Prayer or making sure you are ready to take another hit from that ogre using Battle Medicine.
Prepare: No visible enemies? Move and Ready an Action. Draw that scroll for later. Search for a potential hidden enemy. If you are in initiative it means your character knows something is going down. Use your actions to prepare for the worst. And prepare yourself for your turn by thinking of what actions you’re going to do! Planning ahead is key. Writing down your three actions is a great idea, especially for those of us that panic when we star to take too long on our turn. Preparing ahead of time also includes includes using tactical movement, which can range from Take Cover to moving both before and after an attack to make sure the monster can’t hit you back!
Using all your actions effectively each turn can mean the difference between a success and a total party wipe. Having a list of your favorite actions for a specific character can be as important as a wizard preparing their spells for the day. And whether you use cards, an action library, or just a piece of scratch paper, there’s no shame in reminding yourself of even the most basic actions for when you find yourself in the heat of battle. Whether it’s your first time playing the character or you’re dragging them out of retirement after a year-long dry spell, your party will thank you when that third action is the difference between a life-saving critical success and a glancing blow that leaves the dragon with just enough hit points to unleash one more breath weapon.