Actions in D&D 3.x got fairly complicated in the end. They range from full-round through standard action, move action, swift action, free action, to immediate action. Plus ‘not an action’, but since those… things people do are by definitions ‘not actions’, I’ll ignore them. There are distinct differences between them, but that’s a lot of different things that can do.
- Standard actions are, for the most part, the ‘standard things characters (and monsters) do’. In many cases this is a single attack, or casting a spell, or something similar.
- Move actions are slightly less good, being anything ‘time consuming’ that isn’t their primary beneficial action. Take something out of a backpack, change position, whatever.
- Swift actions are limited to one per round, but otherwise require a negligible amount of time.
- Free actions are even less than that.
- Immediate actions are much like swift actions but can be done out of turn, almost always as a reaction to an event or another creature’s action (but it uses your swift action from the next round, so it’s not quite free).
- Full-round actions are usually specific things that can be done, often more powerful or beneficial than standard actions. Some spells (but not very many) are full-round actions to cast, and under normal circumstances the only way to get more than one attack in a round is to spend the entire round doing so.
The last point is one of my peeves with D&D 3.x. Unless you have a special ability that gives you additional attacks (such as a flurry of blows, Two-Weapon Fighting, or something similar) or high enough Base Attack Bonus to gain iterative attacks, there is no particular benefit to attacking as a full-round action instead of a standard action. Also, to actually use your improved attack rate you have to spend more precious time on it. In the meantime, your arcane artillery can move just as far (or farther, if augmented) as he could before, and open a bigger can of whoop-ass in the form of more powerful spells. On top of that, the bonus attacks almost always come at a decreasing attack bonus or otherwise suffer penalties.
This is kind of lame.
FantasyCraft has a pretty straightforward amendment to the action model used in D&D 3.x that looks like it addresses a number of my peeves.
You get two actions per round, which can each be used for whatever you can do with a single action except casting spells. Unless you have something that lets you do so, such as a feat.
So, ‘full attack’ is simply using both actions in a round to attack (your first-level fighter now has a benefit to standing and fighting instead of moving and attacking, or attacking or moving, or just attacking and doing… nothing). You can move and attack, you can move twice, etc. I expect that generally abilities that increase your attack rate are phrased such that they let you make more than one attack as a single action. For instance, Two-Weapon Combat at the Expert tier lets you, once per round, attack once with each weapon as a single action. A fighter could thus attack once with each weapon and move (which cannot be done under normal circumstances in D&D 3.x), or attack a total of three times in a round (twice with one weapon and once with the other), and so on. Unlike D&D 3.x, the ability to make multiple attacks is paid for – either by limiting you to just attacking in the round, or by paying permanent character costs (feats, or talent slots in Echelon) – so there are no iterative penalties. You may still take an offhand penalty for two-weapon combat, but that’s for attacking with your off hand.
This seems very simple and workable.
However, I still like immediate actions and plan to keep them. Each round you get a single immediate action, as a base, but there will be ways to get more. Some things you can do on your turn (such as taking a five-foot step or casting a swift spell), some you can do out of turn (casting an immediate spell such as feather fall) or making an attack of opportunity. Immediate actions taken out of turn come from your next turn’s actions.
This should make things much easier to adjudicate, and help rectify something I see as an existing point of failure in D&D 3.x.