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Hand-Off [27 Sep 11] How to give an item to a friend in combat.

What do you do in Pathfinder or D&D 3.X if you want to give an object to another character? The rules do not have specified actions for "hand off" and "receive item."

However, "pick up" is a move action that provokes AoOs, and "drop" is a free action. So two creatures could do a hand off by first "dropping" the item and then "picking it up."

Therefore I would be inclined to suggest that "handing off" an item is a free action, and "receiving" an item is a move action that provokes AoOs.

On the other hand, if you look at the doctor-in-the-operating-room model, you could easily make a case that it is handing off that is the move action and receiving that is the free action.

So maybe when you have a hand-off situation, one character can hand off or receive an item as a free action if the other person cooperates as a move action. The person who makes the move action also provokes an attack of opportunity.

Why bother? Well, a recent trend in D&D analysis is to consider the "economy of actions," which is a way to say that the expression of your capability to act in a round depends largely on how many actions you can take in a round. If you can attack only once in a round, you are less capable than a character who can attack three or four times, all things being equal.

For example, there's a reason that the cost to cast a Quickened spell is so high. And why intelligent items are so valuable: they can activate themselves while the owner is taking other actions.

Usually, one of the limits on your capabilities is having to stop to take the time to get items out of your inventory or to put them away. For some characters, especially thrown weapon specialists who want to draw and throw multiple weapons in a round, the Quickdraw feat is essential, because it turns drawing a weapon into a free action instead of a move action.

What if you did not have to use the feat to draw all those throwing axes, when your pal can draw them for you, hand them to you as a move action, so that you can grab them as a free action and throw them as part of your full round attack?

Similarly, if you had an ally standing next to you who was willing to draw crossbows, from a bag of holding, say, load them, and hand them off to you, you might be able to get off a decent rate of fire, ignoring the crossbow's reload time bottleneck. If you had enough allies standing by, you might even be able to grab and shoot crossbows with both hands.

The reason this is balanced is that almost always, a fellow hero has much better things to do in the round than to hand you gear. And because at higher levels, to gain full use of all your iterative attacks, you might well need a team of assistants to make full use of the strategy.

The trick is to get lesser minions to do this for you. Regular familiars, lacking hands, are useless for this, but Improved Familiars, such as mephits, would be useful. Of course, you might prefer to just take the Quickdraw feat instead of the Improved Familiar feat and cut out the (literal) middle-man.

If your DM is kindly, you might be able to use an Unseen Servant as a equipment-mongerer. A summoned creature could help in the same way, maybe. If you have Leadership, your cohort could play nurse to your operating room doctor act.

Of course, if you have the Rapid Reload feat, you can reload as a free action. If you have the Pathfinder Advanced Player Guide Crossbow Mastery feat, you can not only reload as a free action, even a heavy crossbow, but you do not provoke AoOs in so doing.

By some interpretations of the rules, you cannot Quickdraw wands or scrolls or grenade-like weapons, so the assistant alternative may be useful.

Or at the very least, you may from time to time want to hand items to a friend!

This screed was posted here on 15 April 2013, but it was mostly written as a message board post on 27 Sept 2011.

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