On your turn, you can take one standard action, move action, and quick action, and a handful of free actions, in any order.
You can use a standard action to take a move action, and you can use a standard or move action to take a quick action.
You can use one interrupt action when it’s not your turn. You can’t use another one until the end of your next turn. These types of actions are limited to certain classes and class powers.
Other Actions when it’s Not Your Turn
In certain circumstances, characters can intercept foes moving past them, make opportunity attacks, or otherwise act out of turn. These actions are usually free actions.
A creature’s position amounts to two things: the creature’s whereabouts, and who it’s contending with in melee.
Each creature has a general, relative position on the battlefield. Combat is dynamic and fluid, so miniatures can’t really represent where a character “really is.”
Generally, all the heroes and their enemies in a battle are nearby. That means they can reach each other with a single move action.
If you’re behind an unengaged ally, and an enemy moves past that ally to get to you, your ally has the option to move and intercept.
You intercept a creature when you move to stop an enemy attempting to rush past you to attack someone else. You must be near the enemy and the person that enemy is trying to reach.
Generally, the heroes and their enemies are nearby each other and you can use a single move action to reach any of them (provided no enemy intercepts you). If you want to be far away, two moves away from the enemies, make that clear to the GM and make sure there’s room for that maneuver. Wizards and other casters sometimes like to be far away.
In a battle, each combatant is either engaged (locked in combat with one or more enemies) or unengaged (free). When two allies are engaged with the same enemy, they are considered next to each other.
Movement and Melee
The combat system cares about movement and position, but only in simple/approximate terms. It emphasizes where people are and who’s fighting whom.
By default, characters in a battle are free. They can move freely, use ranged attacks, engage in battle, etc. If they try to move past a free enemy, however, that foe usually has the option to intercept them.
Characters are engaged when they are in melee with foes. Engaged creatures can use melee attacks and close-quarter spells against the creatures they engage. They can use ranged attacks but doing so draws opportunity attacks from the enemies that are engaging them that they don’t attack, as does moving away from the enemies they’re engaged with.
Unengaged creatures have no particular limits on how they move. They can’t use melee attacks until engaged.
When you are engaged:
When you are unengaged:
You draw opportunity attacks if you move
You move freely
You can make melee attacks against enemies engaged with you
You can’t make melee attacks
Your ranged attacks draw opportunity attacks from enemies engaged with you that you don’t target
You make ranged attacks normally
Your spells draw opportunity attacks (except close-quarters spells)
You can cast spells freely
You can disengage safely as a move action by making a normal save (11+)
You can engage enemies by moving into melee with them
You can’t intercept enemies
You can engage an enemy moving past you
You’re considered nearby other combatants by default
You’re considered nearby other combatants by default, but you can usually move far away if you want
You can move away from the foes that engage you, but you draw an opportunity attack from each of those enemies when you do.
If you don’t want to risk an opportunity attack, you can use your move action to attempt to disengage (a disengage check). If you choose to disengage, roll a normal save (11+). You can disengage from more than one foe with a single successful check, but your roll takes a –1 penalty for each foe beyond the first that you are disengaging from.
If the disengage check succeeds, you can move without drawing opportunity attacks from the foes you were engaged with. Use your move normally.
If you fail the disengage check, you don’t move, lose your move action for that turn, and remain engaged. You don’t take any opportunity attacks.
Disengaging uses a move action. If you succeed, it’s like getting popped free at the start of your move. If you fail, you use up the move action to no effect.
When a creature gets to make an opportunity attack, it can make a basic melee attack against that foe as a free action during the turn of the creature that is provoking the opportunity attack. You can only use a basic melee attack.
If you move past someone who is not already engaged, they have the option to engage you and make you stop where they are. The GM rules on what counts as moving “past” a defending character or enemy.
Important stats for targeting should be transparent to PCs. The GM should tell you whether your targets are legal targets, or whether they’re mooks, normal monsters, or large monsters.
A spell or area-style effect that targets multiple nearby enemies in a group can’t skip over enemies. You pick one target and attack the rest in order; you don’t skip all over the battlefield. Spells that say they target multiple nearby enemies but don’t specify that they have to be in a group are capable of sending magical energy in different directions, allowing spellcasters to choose targets from where they like.
Here are rules for special situations involving movement and melee.
Powers and spells in various classes are written with the understanding that a character’s allies are the other PCs in the party with a possible addition for an animal companion. NPCs don’t count as allies for abilities that are counting the number of allies that meet certain conditions.
Ambushes and Surprise
In situations when one side ambushes or surprises the other, start by letting the ambushing side pick one creature who will start the ambush. Then roll initiative for all members of the ambushing side.
Only two creatures get to act in the ambush round: the nominated ambusher and their highest initiative ally. The GM can choose whether to advance the escalation die after the surprise round.
Then roll initiative for the side that got ambushed and play normal combat rounds.
If it’s questionable whether a character could execute a particularly interesting move during combat, make a skill check against the ability score that the action is going to use. Specify whether a background will help. The DC depends on the current environment and the dice tell the tale.
Here are a few things you can do that are more involved than just moving or attacking.
Fight in Spirit
This is a special combat action that you can take when you are out of the fight altogether. Once a round you can specify how your character is still there “fighting in spirit” alongside the other party members. Come up with some story about what your character has done that could boost party morale. The GM may grant any ally a +1 bonus to attacks, Armor Class, Physical Defense, or Mental Defense. The first time each battle that someone fights in spirit may be a +2 bonus.
The bonus lasts one to two rounds. If the fight is still on and you have something else to add to the story, sell it to the GM.
If you’re still (even partly) in the fight, then you can’t fight in spirit.
Fleeing is a party action. On any PC’s turn, any player can propose that all the characters flee the fight. If all players agree, they successfully retreat, carrying any fallen heroes away with them. The party suffers a campaign loss. The point of this rule is to encourage daring attacks and to make retreating interesting on the level of story rather than tactics.
Once a battle, every PC can use a standard action to rally, spending one of their recoveries and regaining hit points they’ve lost in combat. (See Recoveries.)
If you want to rally again later in the same battle, make a normal save (11+). If you succeed, you can rally again that battle. If you fail the save, you can take your turn normally, but you can’t rally that round.