Related to this question and this question.

In the case of a readied action where the trigger is specific enough to occur before the attack completes, does the attack complete?

The timeline:

  1. Character A readies action to move out of range of Character B if they start to attack (either with a spell attack or weapon attack)

  2. Character B begins the attack

  3. Character A trigger occurs, moves out of range.

Character A is now out of range and no longer a valid target, what happens?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Focusing on both attack and spell seems a bit like too much for one answer to handle appropriately maybe. Can they be split up? \$\endgroup\$
    – Rubiksmoose
    Mar 5 '18 at 16:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose Cleaned it up to refer just to spell attacks, but I'm not sure how a spell attack vs a spell that requires a saving throw would be different in this case. \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Mar 5 '18 at 16:24
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ How fast can you run? Seriously, from a quick pass through D&D Beyond, most attack spells have a casting time of 1 Action (6 seconds) and a duration of instantaneous. You're really asking if you can outrun a bullet. \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Mar 5 '18 at 16:37
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ @MivaScott he's not out running the bullet he's running out of range. This could be as simple as moving 1 foot back. Spells have very concrete ranges and don't go beyond them. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 5 '18 at 16:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ I am leaning toward a feeling that this question is asking for something that is one layer of granularity too deep for the game engine. I'll be interested to see what other answers crop up. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 5 '18 at 18:56

10 Answers 10


Attacks resolve instantaneously, so there is no such thing as 'before the attack completes'.

You can't react to the start of an attack to avoid the effect of the attack. You should probably just take the dodge action.

You imply a sequence of events within at Attack

You ask:

In the case of a readied action where the trigger is specific enough to occur before the attack completes, does the attack complete?

Your question implies that there is an interruptible span of time between an attack's initiation and its completion.

The rules describe attacks as simultaneously enacted and resolved

Your assumption is flawed: In 5e an attack is finished as soon as it's begun. To evidence this we need only the basic rules for attacking:

When you make an Attack, your Attack roll determines whether the Attack hits or misses. To make an Attack roll, roll a d20 and add the appropriate modifiers. If the total of the roll plus modifiers equals or exceeds the target’s Armor Class (AC), the Attack hits.

The second sentence adds helpful detail here, but the first is completely sufficient. When an attack is made, an 'Attack roll determines whether the Attack hits or misses'. The attack roll and the attack result (i.e. hit or miss) are both simultaneous, essential qualities of the attack.

If there has been no Attack roll, there has been no Attack. And, generally speaking, if there has been no hit/miss resolution, there has been no attack.

Note that there is at least one exception to this rule: the Goblin Boss' redirect attack is a reaction that's triggered by being targeted by an attack and changes the attack's target. This specific rule interrupts the usual protocol and does not set a precedent for what can count as a 'perceivable circumstance' in the case of readying an action. It's worth noting that several reactions available to players, such as those granted by the Shield spell and Defensive Duelist feat, are triggered by an attack hitting and are intended to retroactively prevent the attack from hitting. In these cases the sequence of rolls and reactions perceived by the player are clearly distinct from the in-universe sequence that a character experiences.

In summary: Determining whether the attack hit or missed is not a step that follows the Attack action, but is rather essential to the Attack action. In the default case there is never a time, however brief, at which an attack exists but is yet to hit or miss. Every attack that has been made has already hit or missed (except in the case of exceptions).

You can't (normally) cease to be the target of an attack

Hopefully it's clear by now that, if you're the target of an attack, you can't move

out of range and [cease to be] a valid target

You can only be the target of an attack that's happening, and if you're being targeted then the attack roll has hit or missed, because that resolution is essential to the process of being targeted (Unless you are a Goblin Boss - see the section above).

You should probably just take the dodge action

Want to avoid enemy attacks and willing to spend an action on making that happen? Take the dodge action to impose disadvantage on all attacks, and get advantage on DEX saves. It's almost always better, you can use it against an infinite number of attacks and it's much simpler to adjudicate.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I really like this answer! Two small notes: first, you might want to include some rules about Reaction timing (e.g. DMG p. 252) that clarifies that Readied actions/movement must occur after their trigger. And second of all, I really like the idea of having a trigger be "an enemy loads a crossbow": but it's worth noting that (PHB, p. 146, bold added ) "Drawing the ammunition from a quiver, case, or other container is part of the attack". So if your argument is that a start and resolution of an attack is simultaneous, then loading a crossbow may not be a viable example (though I like it!). \$\endgroup\$ Dec 7 '21 at 16:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ Agree with @Gandalfmeansme. Going further, the answer would be improved by removing the discussion of loading a crossbow, since it isn't a separate action from the attack. (Maybe it should be, but RAW it is not.) \$\endgroup\$ Dec 7 '21 at 18:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Gandalfmeansme I don't see how the 'after their trigger' is relevant here, since the original asker is asking about being able to specify a trigger such that the trigger has completed before the attack is resolved. My answer is that there is not such trigger for a readied action. \$\endgroup\$
    – Lovell
    Dec 7 '21 at 20:08
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Gandalfmeansme but I have removed the crossbow thing - I see now that it's impossible to react to a the loading of a crossbow under RAW \$\endgroup\$
    – Lovell
    Dec 7 '21 at 20:13

The reaction happens AFTER the trigger finishes

Ready Action(PHB 193):

When the trigger occurs, you can either take your reaction right after the trigger finishes or ignore the trigger.

So in your example this would be the timeline:

  1. Character A readies action to move out of range of Character B if they attack (either with a spell attack or weapon attack).

  2. Character B begins the attack.

  3. Character A trigger occurs, have to wait until trigger finishes.

  4. Character B finishes the attack.

  5. Character A moves out of the range, possibly triggering an AoO, or chooses to ignore the trigger.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Note: "the trigger is specific enough to occur before the attack completes" \$\endgroup\$ Dec 6 '21 at 15:36
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ @AncientSwordRage But it's worth noting that the example OP used is not one of sufficient specificity. The entire question is based around the assumption that there can be a Ready trigger which occurs after a creature declares an intention to attack/cast a spell, but sufficiently before the spell/attack happens that you can still foil it. It's worth pointing out that this may not be possible. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 6 '21 at 16:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Gandalfmeansme Counterspell implies it's possible, even if that is the sole exception. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 6 '21 at 16:53
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ @AncientSwordRage There are certainly Reactions that happen upon the start of a character doing something and complete before the character accomplishes that thing (AoO, Counterspell, Shield). But according to DMG p. 252 "opportunity attack and the shield spell are clear about the fact that they can interrupt their triggers. If a reaction has no timing specified, or the timing is unclear, the reaction occurs after its trigger finishes, as in the Ready action." And since this question is about Readying movement, it's relevant to point out that the rules may not support this timing. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 6 '21 at 17:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ (By the way FenrirG, although it's certainly not essential, since your quoted rules already establish the timing of a Readied movement/action compared to its trigger, the rules I quoted from the DMG might be worth including in this answer, just to clarify that Ready triggers in a different way than some other Reactions [i.e. it can't interrupt its trigger, while other specific ones can]). \$\endgroup\$ Dec 6 '21 at 17:09

"Starting to attack" is not an allowable trigger

The Ready action states:

First, you decide what perceivable circumstance will trigger your reaction.

In ordinary language you might be tempted to say that you could perceive someone "starting" to attack. The problem is this makes every attack interruptible. Note that official spells or features that affect an attack don't actually prevent the attack from happening, they merely change the outcome. The protection fighting style imposes disadvantage on the attack, and the shield spell or defensive duelist feat can cause an attack that would hit to miss by changing your armor class, but the attack still happens.

This is not to say that you can't specify "when the creature attacks" as a trigger, but following the rules, the reaction has to occur "after the trigger finishes". Separating "starting the attack" from "the attack" essentially would rewrite the Ready rules so that the readied action occurs before the trigger finishes.

An aside: what would happen if "starting an attack" were an allowable trigger?

If "starting to attack" were separated from the attack itself, then this chain of events would happen:

  1. A takes the Readied action and says they will move out of range if B "starts to attack".
  2. B starts to attack.
  3. A moves out of range.
  4. B, who is allowed to move between attacks and before or after their action (https://www.dndbeyond.com/sources/basic-rules/combat#BreakingUpYourMove) moves back in range.
  5. B attacks.

Not only is this not RAW, it would be a somewhat silly chain of events, and would make combat very difficult to adjudicate.

During combat, attacks happen very quickly. There are very specific reactions (such as the ones mentioned above) that can affect an attack, and additional ones should be created with clear rules for how they affect the attack, but they should not prevent the attack from happening. Once the creature's takes the Attack action, nothing should be allowed to rob the creature of the action. The action may of course not succeed, but it can't be taken away. Of course, things could happen that prevent them from taking th action in the first place. If the creature moves in to attack, and their opponent has readied the action "When the goblin moves within 30 feet of me, I run away," the goblin might not get within range of you, but could conceivably choose a different action at that point because they haven't yet attacked, such as Dash, or Dodge, or Attack someone who is still within range.

There is one circumstance where I imagine a player might think that they want to respond to "starting to attack", and that is before combat has started. Two parties face off at some distance, hurling insults and making threatening displays. A player thinks "I don't actually want to fight, so if the opponent starts to attack, I will run away."

This is not actually a Ready action. Until combat starts, there is no initiative order. When one side commits to the combat--they "start" to cast a spell, fire a missile weapon, or move toward the other party with ill intent--initiative is rolled. Whoever wins, goes first. The person who "starts" combat does not get to automatically go first. So if the player wins the initiative roll, they can run away before the combat starts, but on their turn, the opponents could move to chase them.

A number of questions on this site deal with the issue of who gets to act first at the start of combat:

  • \$\begingroup\$ Rules wise ( it balance or play wise) why is making "every attack interruptible" a problem? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 6 '21 at 18:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ The important thing I'm getting at is that the rules for the Ready action say that the action occurs after the trigger finishes, so in a sense, the trigger is not "interrupted", even if, as with shield, it can be made to fail. It seems problematic to me to cause the action to not happen at the moment that it is declared, rather than having it resolve and see the result. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 6 '21 at 19:15

This would be a DM's call.

The rules specifically mention "If the goblin steps next to me, I move away.", so we know that using your Reaction to move is valid.

However "start to attack" sounds too specific a trigger to me, and implies a level of observation that would normally be in the purview of a Perception check (not to mention that a skilled or canny opponent could easily fake your PC into using his Reaction in this way).

I realise that counterspell does work in this way, however the casting of a spell could easily be seen as a more complex and identifiable process than the feints of a blade.

It also causes complications with Opportunity Attacks: if a Reaction is available, should the attacking creature get to swing at you on the way out of his melee range?

All that being said, a PC is potentially using his entire Action and Reaction just to (for example) move behind a wall when a spell goes off. Why not just take your Action as normal and get out of sight afterward?


A place for an impromptu opposed dexterity check

From the rule on Contests:

This situation also applies when one of them is trying to prevent the other one from accomplishing a goal (Basic Rules, p. 58)

This kind of situation takes us back to where a DM uses the basic structure of the game to adjudicate potential rules conflicts:

  1. DM describes the situation
  2. Player says what they are doing
  3. DM narrates the result (Korvin'sKaveat: roll dice only when necessary)

    While this approach is "getting a bit fiddly" as compared to the cleaner way D&D 5e was built to be played (fewer die rolls to resolve combat), if the rules don't clearly spell this out then a way to provide both the player and the NPC a chance for their attempt to succeed fits into a contest. Who was quicker?

    As a DM, I'd be more likely to rule situational advantage to the player with the Ready Action due to their having sacrificed their other actions for that; reward planning ahead and using one's wits? But that's not necessary, advantage or disadvantage based on the situation will vary with the scenario.

Melee and Ranged attack are different cases

  1. For Melee, use dodge, move or dash

    If it's a melee attacker not already in melee range, a Ready Action to Dash/move away would seem to solve the problem. (Provided that the character can move). You move out of range and avoid an attack. Likewise, the choice to dodge to impose disadvantage on the attack would reduce the odds of, but not nullify, a successful attack.

  2. For Ranged attack, the question poses a slight difficulty

    • Dodge is an easier option to apply to such a situation

      While dodge was probably the rule intended to deal with a situation like this, as it would grant the attacker disadvantage on the attack. But, Dash and Move are actions eligible for use in a reaction or Ready Action.

    • That said, if the player somehow knows how far the attacker can shoot, why not try to get out of the way rather than risk a (reduced) chance to be hit? This situation requires that the PC knows what's coming, doesn't it? The PC has to know what the range is for an attack before applying this "get out of range" attempt. That takes us to ...

My problem with this question's premise

A problem I run into with this question is the point made in Xanathar's Guide to Everything: it takes a reaction to cast counterspell, but it takes another action/actor/action economy cost to know the spell someone is casting. While that is related to the discussion on counterspell, it may apply here as well. Beyond that, many ranged attack spells have a duration of "instantaneous" which argues for the amount of time being available to do this as negligible. That points me back to "dodge" as being the clearer way to try and avoid an attack, but what is being asked is how to nullify the ranged attack by exceeding the attack's range.

How does the PC know what spell is being cast to attack him?

It may be obvious due to how long the combat has been going on, or the wand in the attacker's hand, but there may be some meta knowledge involved also. You'd need to know what spell it is to know what "out of range" means. The Q&A at the link delves into the details and comes to the conclusion that "the rules are not that clear."

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Regarding your last statement: why would you need to identify a spell here? A trigger reacting to the casting of a spell should not need to identify it so I'm not sure I see your point there. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rubiksmoose
    Mar 5 '18 at 16:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose You need to know what spell it is to know what "out of range" means. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 5 '18 at 16:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Good point. I assumed the character would just run as far as they could. Would not need to know anything then. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rubiksmoose
    Mar 5 '18 at 16:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose And if you don't get out of range, you might have been better off to dodge in the first place \$\endgroup\$ Mar 5 '18 at 16:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ FYI, Xanathar does offer a reaction for identification as well as an action. DM's choice? \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Mar 5 '18 at 18:15

DM's Adjudication

This is a bit of frame challenge.

As I was reviewing the other answers as well as the citation raised by AncientSwordRage, I think one of the disconnects between the querent and the respondents is the interpretation of the trigger for the reaction. I disagree with assertions that this isn't a permissible trigger, but rather that most DMs should probably ask for clarification.

Within the citation, the trigger indicates some sort of perceptable trigger in the form of a character aiming a weapon. To be clear, this is not an attack, this is somebody raising a weapon.

As this question is written, on Step 2 it states that, "Character B begins the attack." How this gets interpreted is critical and hence why I indicate that this is a matter for DM adjudication, because the stated trigger is not, "If Character B attacks me," rather it's if Character B starts to attack.

This phrasing of the trigger is open to a lot of interpretation, but this DM would understand that, "If they start to attack," in a manner that benefits Character A whom is specifically expending their turn to avoid an attack by Character B. Thus, I would interpret this trigger to mean that when Character B begins to cast a spell/raise a bow in a perceptable manner that would satisfy Character A's trigger and thus they could move out of range and deny Character B a target that's in range.

That said, this does not mitigate the fact that at this time, Character B has not completed an attack on their turn, nor expended their Action or anything else. Only that the field has changed in reaction to something that they did. Thus, if Character B wishes to move closer to bring Character A back into range that's an option for them.

This is only one interpretation of these triggers, but I don't see there to be more than two. If the DM interprets things in the sense that the trigger is Character B must make an attack before the trigger conditions are met, then I defer you to Lovell's answer.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I like this, it's a good answer in my eyes \$\endgroup\$ Dec 8 '21 at 17:33

Technically this readied action is not allowed RAW or I believe RAI in DnD 5e

First, you decide what perceivable circumstance will trigger your reaction. Then, you choose the action you will take in response to that trigger, or you choose to move up to your speed in response to it. Examples include “If the cultist steps on the trapdoor, I’ll pull the lever that opens it,” and “If the goblin steps next to me, I move away.” (PHB, p. 193)

So basically RAW you can ready to make an action or to move.

The readied action you described only had move.

What would have happened if you just moved? The attack would have still happened (an opportunity attack) but you would have been out of range of any other melee attacks.

Just disengaging still leaves you in range so you can't say "I ready myself to disengage and run when he starts attacking." If you wanted to get away then you would have to use your action on your turn to disengage, then move away, then their turn would start.

  • \$\begingroup\$ My edit was format only, as some words were split up and the ref inside the quote is what I am used to seeing here. Also added a necessary preposition. Please review. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 6 '18 at 23:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @J.A.Streich I believe they are saying that this use of the ready action is not RAW, not that the Ready action is wholesale not RAW. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 6 '21 at 18:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ You are correct. I don't know how/why I read it that way. My brain today is sluggish at best, apparently. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 6 '21 at 19:10

What the rules say

The rules for the Ready action read:

First, you decide what perceivable circumstance will trigger your reaction. Then, you choose the action you will take in response to that trigger, or you choose to move up to your speed in response to it. Examples include "If the cultist steps on the trapdoor, I'll pull the lever that opens it," and "If the goblin steps next to me, I move away."

The Timeline

Character's Turn Ready Action

Character A readies action to move out of range of Character B if they start to attack (either with a spell attack or weapon attack)

"Start to attack" is more than a bit vague, and as a DM I would try to get them to be more clear about trigger. I'd ask, "What exactly is your character looking for? How will know they are going to attack?" If it remains vague, I'll roll with what I got.

"Move out of range" isn't a guaranteed option, just an intention. Where the character moves the player will get choose when the trigger occurs. We'll talk about this more later in the answer.

Attacker's Turn

Character B begins the attack

A weapon attack should be the more clear case. The player they gave up the action on their turn on the "begin the attack", so I'd let them use their before the attack roll.

A Melee Weapon Attack

If it is a melee attack, the first attack would count as "used", but the attacker can use what moment they have left to attempt to move after the PC and take their second attack of either the Attack action with Extra Attack feature, Multi Attack action, Action Surge or the like. Because the attacker is expressly allowed to move between the attacks in a Attack action.

If you take an action that includes more than one weapon attack, you can break up your movement even further by moving between those attacks. For example, a fighter who can make two attacks with the Extra Attack feature and who has a speed of 25 feet could move 10 feet, make an attack, move 15 feet, and then attack again.

Also the fleeing character's (A's) movement would still provoke a potential Opportunity Attack using the attacker's reaction, if available.

You can make an opportunity attack when a hostile creature that you can see moves out of your reach. To make the opportunity attack, you use your reaction to make one melee attack against the provoking creature. The attack occurs right before the creature leaves your reach.

Ranged Attack

If it is a ranged attack, the attacker could try to adjust the aim and "follow the target," and the movement might cause the DMs to rule it imparts disadvantage on the first attack for the running around, if the player character doesn't actually get out of range.

The DM can also decide that circumstances influence a roll in one direction or the other and grant advantage or impose disadvantage as a result.

The other attacks the attacker makes, if available, would be made with straight rolls if the fleeing character is still in range. If the character is able to actually get out of range, the ranged attacker will be able to use whatever movement they have left to move to attempt to get the target back in range, given they have multiple attacks from Extra Attack feature, Multiple Attack action, or Action Surge or the like. The question remains, can they move out of range. See "move out range" section later in this answer.

Spell Attack

In the case the "attacker" uses a spell, it should require a Intelligence (Arcana) check to see if the character thinks the spell is an attack or not. I do this because it seems appropriate given:

Your Intelligence (Arcana) check measures your ability to recall lore about spells, magic items, eldritch symbols, magical traditions, the planes of existence, and the inhabitants of those planes.

If the character perceives (correctly or incorrectly) that it is an attack, then it should trigger their movement.

Reaction "Out of Range"

Character A trigger occurs, moves out of range.

If the trigger is successfully tripped, then the player must tell the DM where they would like to move, but the DM has no obligation to the player what the range of the attack. So on the readied move, the player choses to move the character up to the character's movement in a direction the player or character thinks would get them out of range.

  1. The DM describes the environment.
  2. The players describe what they want to do.
  3. The DM narrates the results of the adventurers’ actions.

If it isn't out of range the first attack can still happen, and the movement can, as mentioned previously, provoke opportunity attacks from hostiles creature whose melee range they exit, possible including the original attacker.


Are you a Light Domain Cleric?

Readied Actions (emphases mine):

First, you decide what perceivable circumstance will trigger your reaction. Then, you choose the action you will take in response to that trigger, or you choose to move up to your speed in response to it. Examples include "If the cultist steps on the trapdoor, I'll pull the lever that opens it," and "If the goblin steps next to me, I move away."
When the trigger occurs, you can either take your reaction right after the trigger finishes or ignore the trigger. Remember that you can take only one reaction per round.

What you are asking to do is move after an attack starts, but before it concludes. To do this, you will need the trigger that indicates the start of the attack to be perceivable, and also to be distinct from the conclusion of the attack, since your readied action will occur after the trigger finishes. That is, you will need to be able to parse the different parts of an attack.

The parts of an attack (emphases mine):

  1. Choose a target. Pick a target within your attack's range: a creature, an object, or a location.
  2. Determine modifiers. The DM determines whether the target has cover and whether you have advantage or disadvantage against the target. In addition, spells, special abilities, and other effects can apply penalties or bonuses to your attack roll.
  3. Resolve the attack. You make the attack roll. On a hit, you roll damage, unless the particular attack has rules that specify otherwise. Some attacks cause special effects in addition to or instead of damage.

Let's assume that Step 2, Determine Modifiers, is completely 'meta' and not something your PC could actually react to in-game. However, note that Steps 1 and 3 are distinct. Thus, if by "begins the attack" you mean, 'the attacker chooses me as a target' and by "the attack completes" you mean, 'the attacker resolves the attack by making an attack roll and damage roll', then potentially you have something to react to. In theory, it might be possible to react to being selected as the target of an attack, and taking your reaction after that target selection finishes but before the attack roll happens.

Most answers to this question say that this is not possible, that you cannot parse an attack that finely, and that 'right after the trigger finishes' means after the entire attack. In the face of this skepticism, then, a few examples of abilities that do just that are useful.

The Goblin Boss has:

Redirect Attack. When a creature the goblin can see targets it with an attack, the goblin chooses another goblin within 5 feet of it. The two goblins swap places, and the chosen goblin becomes the target instead.

The Light Domain Cleric (PHB61) has:

WARDING FLARE Also at 1st level, you can interpose divine light between yourself and an attacking enemy. When you are attacked by a creature within 30 feet of you that you can see, you can use your reaction to impose disadvantage on the attack roll, causing light to flare before the attacker before it hits or misses.

[Note that Warding Flare was the only ability I found in the PHB that allows you to use your reaction in response to being targeted, but I would not be surprised if a non-PHB but still official class had such an ability.]

Thus there are at least two official examples of abilities which use reactions in response to being targeted and which resolve before a hit roll is made and before the attack concludes.

So it is clear that the rules permit such fine parsing of triggers as you wish to do. The question for the DM then becomes whether all creatures are allowed to do such parsing, and the goblin boss and light domain cleric are just being given an additional option for what to do with their reaction, or whether it is the redirect attack and warding flare themselves which allow their users to be able to perceive themselves as being targets and then react on such a fine scale.

If your answer as a DM is to say that it is the features themselves which give their user the ability to detect targeting and react before the attack concludes, then there is a more difficult question. Suppose you have a Light Domain cleric who has the ability to detect when they are the target of an attack and react before the attack is rolled. Can that cleric then do as you would like, Readying an action to move out of range if they are targeted by an attack? Or is their reaction limited to Warding Flare only, even though they can clearly perceive that they are a target and then decide whether or not to use Warding Flare?

For your second question, you ask what happens when the target is out of range by the time the attack action completes. The ranged attack rules (emphases mine) say:

When you make a ranged attack, you fire a bow or a crossbow, hurl a handaxe, or otherwise send projectiles to strike a foe at a distance. A monster might shoot spines from its tail. Many spells also involve making a ranged attack.
Range. You can make ranged attacks only against targets within a specified range.
If a ranged attack, such as one made with a spell, has a single range, you can't attack a target beyond this range.
Some ranged attacks, such as those made with a longbow or a shortbow, have two ranges. The smaller number is the normal range, and the larger number is the long range. Your attack roll has disadvantage when your target is beyond normal range, and you can't attack a target beyond the long range.

In this case, there is a clear indication that if you can use your reaction to move out of range of the attack, the attack simply fails; it cannot be made, whether it is a weapon or spell.

My perspective as a DM

In my experience as a DM, readied actions are a risky gamble. As often as not they end up being wasted when their trigger doesn't materialize. What if the attacker in question ends up attacking another member of your party? What if they attack you and you move away, but their attack has enough range to still reach you? That means your spent your action and reaction and got no benefit, which is a poor return on investment in the action economy. If allowing the readied action you suggest helps a player feel more agency and results in little overall benefit to their character, that's an easy yes at my table.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think you're conflating reactions with readied actions (which use your reaction). Readied actions require a 'perceivable circumstance' as trigger, whereas reactions in general can have quite abstract triggers. For example, shield is triggered by a hit which it then, paradoxically, retroactively prevents. Reactions with attack rolls as trigger are a specific exception and do not set a precedent for readied actions that do the same. \$\endgroup\$
    – Lovell
    Dec 7 '21 at 8:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you justify your claim that being targeted qualifies as a 'perceivable circumstance'? \$\endgroup\$
    – Lovell
    Dec 7 '21 at 20:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Lovell Because in order to use their ability, either the Boss or the Cleric have to declare that they are doing so in response to being targeted but before an attack roll is made - if they could not perceive that they were targeted, to what are they responding? The fact that in both cases they may only respond to attacks from an attacker that they can see implies that this is not just a meta-level rules interaction, but that there is something perceivable to which they are responding at a narrative level as well. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Dec 7 '21 at 21:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Lovell See also this question and wax eagle's response. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Dec 7 '21 at 21:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ implies, yes. But not sufficient evidence imo. Reactions do not innately require their trigger to be perceptible - if that were the case there would be no need of the specific condition of 'perceivable circumstance' for readied actions, which are especially constrained \$\endgroup\$
    – Lovell
    Dec 7 '21 at 22:27

Sure. Swing a sword or casting as spell is something you can perceive.

Yes, you can use a Readied action to avoid an attack by moving out of its range, by readying a Disengage action with a trigger like "when he starts to swing his sword at me". This is something you can perceive, so it's a valid trigger for a Ready action. It'd trigger after they target you but before they roll.

Unlike many of the other answerers, I do believe that the game intends to allow you to use reactions to interrupt an attack, and for this, I will point to the shield spell, which allows you to turn an attack that hit into an attack that missed by increasing your AC as a reaction.

Of course, this will cost you your action on your turn, and prevent you from doing anything actually useful like attacking or casting damaging spells.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Shield specifically interrupts the triggering attack. Readied actions specifically happen after their trigger. I don't think pointing to the shield spell as an example is useful here. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 7 '21 at 5:33
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @RyanC.Thompson And that is why you set the trigger to then beginning to attack you, rather than them completing an attack on you. \$\endgroup\$
    – nick012000
    Dec 7 '21 at 5:35
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not necessarily saying you're wrong, I'm just saying that the shield spell's mechanics are different enough from a readied action that it doesn't support your argument at all. Shield triggers on a hit, not an attack, and it then explicitly applies its effect retroactively. Neither of these aspects is relevant to the current question. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 7 '21 at 5:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ There's no such thing as a "Withdraw action"; I assume you're referring to readying movement (which isn't an action): "[...] Then, you choose the action you will take in response to that trigger, or you choose to move up to your speed in response to it. Examples include "If the cultist steps on the trapdoor, I'll pull the lever that opens it," and "If the goblin steps next to me, I move away."" \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Dec 7 '21 at 6:27
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @nick012000: Readying the Disengage action wouldn't do anything on its own. The Disengage action just prevents opportunity attacks from being provoked by your movement on the same turn. (The question doesn't propose readying the Disengage action either, just movement.) \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Dec 7 '21 at 14:59

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