Type of Action: Free Action (special; see below)
Taking a 5-foot step is a special type of free action that allows you to move one square (five feet) from your current space without provoking attacks of opportunity from nearby enemy creatures that threaten your square. A creature can take a 5-foot step before, during, or after their other actions in the round. However, there are some conditions that must be met in order to take a 5-foot step on your turn.
There are four general ways in which a creature can become eligible to perform a 5-foot step:
Perform No Other Movement
- A creature can take a 5-foot step in any round in which they don't perform any other kind of movement. This means the creature cannot use any action, or perform any activity, which causes them to move from their starting location through their own volition, if they want to use this mechanic. Examples of this include (but are not limited to:
- Creatures cannot take more than one of these sorts of 5-foot steps in a round. This is the most common way for monsters to use a 5-foot step in combat, although players may also use this mechanic as well.
Trade Away Attacks From A Full Attack Action
- A creature can declare a Full Attack Action and perform a number of 5-foot steps up to the base number of attacks provided by their favored class. Note that this means that, in order to maximize your character's combat mobility, your favored class should be a character class with four attacks during its full attack action.
- Any attacks performed subtract from the number of attacks they can trade away for 5-foot steps, and similarly, any 5-foot steps taken by 'spending' an attack reduces the number of available attacks in the full attack action. The 5-foot steps can occur during any part of the full attack action, including before, after, or between attacks, assuming the character has enough attacks to perform each action.
- For example, a fighter declares a full attack. Since fighters get 4 base attacks during a full attack, they may make up to four attacks during a full attack action. They can use all four of these attacks to attack targets they can reach (or within range, if using ranged attacks), or they can trade away one or more of these attacks to perform an equal number of 5-foot steps, to a maximum of four, moving up to 20 feet without provoking attacks of opportunity, due to their utter combat focus. If they perform a combination of attacks and 5-foot steps, the 5-foot steps can occur before, during, or after the attacks, as the fighter prefers.
- Where characters perform attacks starting with their highest to-hit numbers and working their way down to their worst to-hit numbers, full-attack 5-foot steps 'use up' the worst to-hit numbers and work up to the highest to-hit numbers. This is true even if the 5-foot steps are taken between attacks.
- 5-foot steps taken by trading away attacks from a full attack action do not count as movement, and may therefore be combined with a normal 5-foot step, assuming all other criteria for the normal 5-foot step are met (see above).
- Characters can never trade away more attacks for 5-foot steps than the base number of attacks provided by their character class, even if they have access to bonus attacks through feats, spells, or magic items. If the character is dual- or multi-classed, their base number of attacks during a full attack is always the highest available from all classes they have taken.
- Any 5-foot steps taken use up all bonus attacks that would normally be taken at the same to-hit bonus. That is, if you have a bonus attack that uses your worst to-hit, and you trade away your worst to-hit for a 5-foot step, you also lose that bonus attack. You do not get additional 5-foot steps for these bonus attacks; they are simply lost when the attack with the same to-hit bonus is traded away for the 5-foot step. Since your best to-hits are used up last, bonus attacks that use your best to-hit are only used up if you take a number of 5-foot steps equal to your full base number of attacks.
Class Features, Racial Traits, Feats, etc.
- A creature may gain access to a 5-foot step by using a feat, class feature, racial trait, monster ability, or any other legal source (subject to GM approval, of course). For example, some classes (e.g. Prowler) and races (e.g. Bru-kin) have special abilities that allow them to make more than one 5-foot step in a single round, or in rounds in which they have already moved. The listed rules may also specify different limitations for using the ability (e.g. the additional 5-foot step may cost a swift or move action to perform). In these cases, the specific ability's rules take precedence over the rules listed here.
- If a creature has an Action Point that can be used to grant a move action, they may spend the action point to take a 5-foot step instead (using up the move action), even if they have previously moved this round, or have already taken a 5-foot step. Using action points in this manner deliberately breaks the normal rules for 5-foot steps, since action points are meant to simulate truly heroic deeds.
- A creature can't take a 5-foot step if the space they are attempting to move in to is considered difficult terrain, unless they possess a movement type that allows them to ignore that type of difficult terrain, and that also allows the use of 5-foot steps (e.g. Hover).
- A creature can't take a 5-foot step if they are attempting to move into a space that is concealed, either partially or totally (typically due to dim light or darkness, but sometimes fog, or other conditions may cause this), unless they have some means of seeing normally in those conditions (e.g. Darkvision).
- Any creature with a move speed of 5 feet or less cannot ever take a 5-foot step, since moving even 5 feet requires a move action for such a slow creature.
- No creature may take a 5-foot step using a form of movement for which they do not have a listed speed.