There has been a movement in the RPG community to qualify and quantify everything a character can do out of the starting gate.
There is nothing wrong with this approach. It is borrowed from what is really the gateway drug to most tabletop RPGs, which is board games. The Monopoly Jr, to Catan, to Dungeons and Dragons, to Pathfinder Pipeline is very strong.
Sometimes it stops at the Magic: the Gathering depot where most of the LGBTs live or at least spend the majority of their summer vacations.
To that end, there are a myriad of different Basic Actions in Pathfinder 2e that a character can do. Most of them will blend into the background as you play, but there is one action that deserves some attention: the Interact Actions
What Exactly Is Interact?
Interact is a Basic Action, meaning that it can be used by all player characters and non-player characters regardless of Ancestry, Class, or Proficiencies. In the exact wording:
You use your hand or hands to manipulate an object or the terrain. You can grab an unattended or stored object, open a door, or produce some similar effect. You might have to attempt a skill check to determine if your Interact action was successful.
As my therapist said when I told them of my nightmares of Zombie Kittens, let’s break this down.
Interact is a catch-all action, meant to be a default when no other action really fits the bill. The GM is the arbiter of how long your Interact action is going to take, and how difficult it is.
Interact might require you to make a skill check, but again that is the GMs call.
What Interact is Not
While Interact is a catch-all action for anything not already addressed in the list of actions, it really isn’t a substitute for any action.
Interact should not be used to replace any action that is already listed under Actions.
Interact isn’t movement, though you aren’t completely still while doing it. There might be a small amount of movement involved, but nothing more than the square you are already occupying.
Examples of what you can use Interact for are listed further down in the article.
What are the Limitations of Interact?
Moving on from what Interact isn’t, it should be noted that this action does have some limitations when a DM calls for it.
The Interact Action has the Manipulate trait:
You must physically manipulate an item or make gestures to use an action with this trait. Creatures without a suitable appendage can’t perform actions with this trait. Manipulate actions often trigger reactions.
The Manipulate trait requires an “appendage” to…well..manipulate something. Most often for humanoid creatures this is a hand or foot (or a tongue if you’re playing THAT kind of tabletop game, I don’t judge).
That means that 9.9 times out of 10, you will need a free hand to use the Interact Action. This includes if you are somehow changed into a creature without hands. There is a feat for the Bastion Archetype that helps to address this limitation for Shield Users:
Nimble Shield Hand Feat 6
Prerequisites Bastion Dedication
You are so used to wielding a shield that you can do so even while using the hand that’s holding it for other purposes. The hand you use to wield a shield counts as a free hand for the purposes of the Interact action. You can also hold another object in this hand (but you still can’t use it to wield a weapon). This benefit doesn’t apply to tower shields, which are still too cumbersome.
This feat points out the Interact Action by name and offers a way around the “free hand limitation”
This also means that druids under the effects of their Wild Shape focus spells can’t really use the Interact action unless it is a very specific circumstance that will need to be called by your DM. They may have an appendage that would qualify them for the Manipulate Trait, but depending on what they are doing, it might not work. Again, GM call on that one.
Who Can Use Interact?
As Interact is a basic action, almost everyone can use it. Interact is like movement, in that everyone can use it for the most part. The only real limitations are listed above.
The only people who can’t use it would be creatures or characters that can’t do something with the Manipulate trait. If a creature lacks hands or appendages to literally “Interact” with the world, then they cannot use the Interact action.
What Can I do with Interact?
The vagueness of the Interact action confuses a lot of people.
“So can I craft a weapon with Interact?”
No, that would be the Craft action.
“Oh, but it means I can pick a lock?”
Nope, that would be the Pick a Lock action.
“Can…Can I disable this trap?”
Nada, that is the Disable a Device action.
“THEN WHAT EVEN IS INTERACT FOR?!”
<insert confused Spongebob meme here>
I am glad you asked! Below we are going to go into some examples of how best to call for the Interact action during game play. We will go into examples for both Encounter Mode and Exploration Mode, doing our best to show how Interact might be your best option for actions during these times.
During their explorations of the Mines of Moria, the GM decides to have a full encounter for the party of nine adventurers.
The players can hear the goblin war drums pounding in the depths of the mines, and as Boromir rushes to the door, he sees the goblin archers who barely miss their shots at the human’s head.
The GM calls for an Initiative Roll, and the party gets a few actions before the Goblins arrive.
Boromir uses an Interact Action to slam the door closed and warn the others. “They have a cave troll.”
The party uses their next few Interact actions to grab a few dropped axes and barricade the door. Aragorn and Legolas use the Ready action to give them the option to shoot the first few goblins who break through their impromptu barricade.
Captain Jack Sparrow is in the middle of a duel against this very familiar looking young man who is really good at sword fighting! They go back and forth trading blow for blow, the GM counting down how many turns they have before the guards catch up to Jack and arrest him.
Jack’s player looks at the battle map and points at the wagon he and Will’s player are fighting next to. He asks if it’s up on blocks. The GM tells him it’s propped up to keep it from swaying. Jack uses the Interact Action to kick the blocks out and jumps on, making the wagon sway back and forth.
Now Jack might (keyword might) get the upper hand in the fight as both he and Will are on uneven terrain that is moving!
Frodo wakes up from his sleep to see Sam, Pippin, and Merry building a fire and having a late dinner when they are SUPPOSED to be hiding on a cliff face known as Weathertop. Unfortunately for the group of Halflings, even though the fire is only a small cooking fire, it can be seen for miles around.
Frodo, who understands the grave danger of the situation, uses the Interact action to try and stamp out the fire before it is seen by the Nazgul chasing them. Lucky that halflings in this setting have strong feet.
Unfortunately for the players, the GM has been wanting a fight this whole time, but hasn’t gotten the chance to provoke a meeting with the party because Aragorn’s player is rolling way too well at Survival Checks. The Nazgul see the flames and scream.
Pippin needs to light the beacon of Minas Tirith to help summon the armies of Rohan to Gondor’s defense in the coming fight. So far he has scrambled up the side of the cliff and gotten into position without being seen by the guards monitoring the beacon’s fire.
He quietly climbs to the top of the bonfire, and using the Interact action reaches out for the bowl of oil to surreptitiously spill in on the pyre to ignite it. The GM calls for a Stealth skill check to make sure he isn’t seen by the guards.
Thankfully, Pippin has invested in Stealth since the horrible mishap in the Mines of Moria. Pippin beats the Stealth test easily.
With a grin, he slips down from the pyre. The Halfling climbs down the side of the cliff face with none the wiser as to his actions.
Be interactive, Pathfinder!