Pillars of Eternity Wiki

A summary of turn-based combat in game

Turn-based mode is an alternate mode of combat in Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire. It reworks the games existing combat mechanics to function in a turn-based style of play (like that of Divinity: Original Sin, for example) instead of one that is real-time as the game is more traditionally known. This changes the approach and pacing of combat to be more slow, tactical, and deliberate, drastically affecting how the game is played. It aims to provide players with the choice of an alternate combat style for those who may prefer it.

The turn-based mode slows everything down. It's a very, very tactical mode of play. It highlights some abilities and debuffs and things like that, that aren't necessarily as highlighted in the real-time with pause combat system. And it's really a lot of fun.
~ A quote from Josh Sawyer in the announcement video

Once starting a new game, the player is free to pick between the traditional "Real-Time with Pause Mode", and the new "Turn-Based Mode". As it changes the game fundamentally, players cannot freely swap between the two modes during gameplay (without using the console).


The mode was temporarily made available to players in late December 2018 [1], though it was revealed that this was unintentional, and it was removed in a hotfix some hours later.

On the 24th of January 2019, in patch 4.1 (update #60)[2], Obsidian released a beta version of turn based mode, allowing players to give feedback and report bugs with the new system before its full release. It was rumored that the addition of this combat mode was to coincide with the release of the console versions of Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, in order to make the combat more accessible – given Pillars of Eternity's combat has traditionally favored the use of keyboard and mouse.

As of patch 5.0 (released on the 8th of May, 2019), turn-based mode is no longer considered to be "in beta". The patch added a variety of fixes and changes as a result of feedback from testers.


Instead of all characters being free to take actions simultaneously, turn-based combat restricts the focus to one character at a time. Combat is taken in turn, with all combatants taking one turn each round. The combatants are queued based on their Recovery Time - now called "Initiative". Lower Initiative means acting earlier in the round, higher means acting later. Characters can only act (i.e. move, attack, and cast spells and abilities) during their turns. Once a character has taken their turn, the next character in the queue gets to move, and so on.

While the update doesn't change a lot of the actual health and damage mechanics of the game, it does change the effect of durations and over-time effects, converting them to last a number of rounds. This includes the regular tick, pulse and over-time effects, but also spell cast times and reloading. Generally, one round is equivalent to six seconds in real time, though some exceptions have been made for balance reasons.

The following is the comparison shown to the player starting a new game:

Real-Time with Pause Mode Turn-Based Mode
  • Characters can all act simultaneously.
  • Pause is available to give more time for difficult decisions.
  • Recovery Time mechanic dictates how frequently characters can perform actions.
  • Durations of effects count down in real-time.
  • Party Member AI is available to help automate character actions.
  • Re-Targeting option is available to change the target location of a spell or ability after it has begun.
  • Character can only act on their turns.
  • Recovery time becomes "Initiative" — Lower Initiative means acting earlier in a round.
  • Reload Time modifies "Initiative" and these weapons will reload between turns.
  • Spells with longer cast times will complete their cast at a later point in turn order.
  • Dual Wield auto-attacks are now Full-Attacks and no longer affect Recovery Time.
  • Durations are converted to last number of "rounds".
  • Effects that tick, pulse or occur over time have had their potency scaled to match a per-round value.
  • Magran's Challenge adds a time limit to turns instead of limiting pausing.
  • Party Member AI and Re-targeting are disabled.


Action types[]

  • Turn ActionStandard.png Standard action: Standard actions are the most common type of action. A Standard action uses the character's action point for the turn and happens right away.
  • Turn ActionCast.png Cast action: a Cast action uses the character's action point. The character will immediately begin casting the ability. They will finish casting the ability later in the same round.
  • Turn ActionFree.png Free action: a Free action does not use a character's action point. A character can perform any number of Free actions on their turn in addition to a Standard or Cast action.

In order of precedence:

All abilities with an attacking component, a looping cast animation, and a cast time greater than 0 seconds are cast actions (generally this covers most offensive wizard/druid/priest spells).

Abilities that do not have an attacking component (including self-targeting abilities and modals), or those that have an attacking component but recover instantly are free actions.

Everything else (including use of consumables, switching weapons, placing traps, and general abilities) is a standard action. The action type of an attacking ability can be overridden, so these rules may not always apply.


Items in italics are quoted directly from the game.

Initiative is used to determine who will act first in the turn order. Characters with lower Initiative values will act before other characters and will complete spell casts faster.

Initiative (Turn initiativeIcon.png) influences turn order, and is directly translated from recovery time. All characters start with a base of 6 Initiative, which receives the exact same modifiers as recovery time, including the Dexterity score (at ±6% every point below or above 10, respectively), and the recovery time rating of the character's equipped armor.

When a character attacks or casts an ability, the recovery time of the weapon or ability is added to the character's initiative for the next round, changing their turn order (though it is not cumulative).

Likewise, the cast speed for cast actions is added to the character's current initiative to determine when the cast finishes (the cast gets its own turn). If the initiative is higher than that of the last turn in the current round, it is shifted to the next round.

The attack speed of weapons is effectively ignored, as weapon attacks occur on the same turn.

Available movement[]

All characters start their turn with 3 seconds of free movement, which is multiplied by their Stride to determine the total movement distance available for the turn. All party members have a base run speed of 4, though creatures have varied speeds. For example, character with +20% Stride gets 12.2m of available movement.

Other terms[]

  • Action (Turn ActionIcon.png): All characters get one available action per round. This may be spent performing an attack, a standard action, or a cast action - in which case the action will be "spent" later. There is no way to get more than one action per turn, nor is there a way to regenerate a spent action during the round.
  • Action Speed: Characters with higher Action Speed will complete Cast Actions earlier and will have lower Initiative.
  • The Delay Turn button moves a character to the end of the turn order in a round of combat. It can only be used if the character has not moved nor used their action point for that turn.

Game mechanics changes[]

In addition to the differences summarized above, several other mechanics have been altered for balance purposes.

  • Dexterity: A Dexterity score above or below 10 gives ±4% Stride in addition to its normal effects. This is intended to make up for the reduced importance of Action Speed.
  • Dual Wielding: Dual wielded weapons deal -35% damage. This is intended to balance the fact that all attacks use both weapons.
  • Durations are all converted to rounds, with each round being 6 seconds long. For example, an effect that lasts 5 seconds is converted to 0.833 rounds (truncated to 0), and durations that last 0 rounds are treated as 1 round. Internally this is calculated with Mathf.FloorToInt((duration / 6) + 0.0001f)
  • Damage-over-time and heal-over-time: These abilities tick once when initially used, then tick again on the turn of the character who used the ability. The damage or healing numbers are adjusted to treat one turn as approximately equal to 6 seconds in real time.
  • Interrupts cause a target to forfeit their current cast action.
  • Grazes now occur at rolls 1-49 (instead of 25-49), making it significantly harder to miss an attack, but making grazes more common.
  • Afflictions: Tier 2 and 3 Perception Afflictions give +50% Initiative in addition to their normal effects:
    • Disoriented: Perception Affliction. Disoriented characters have -5 Perception, are considered Flanked, and have +50% Initiative after their actions.
    • Blinded: Perception Affliction. Blinded characters suffer -5 Perception, are considered Flanked, +50% Initiative, -10 Accuracy, and the distance of all ranged attacks is halved. Blinded characters cannot use or be affected by Gaze attacks.

Behind the scenes[]



Josh Sawyer introducing the beta for Turn-Based Mode

External links[]