I really don't like the Ready Action. Smart (and/or tactical) players might be able to use readied actions to great effect and without problems, but my players and I find this game mechanic to be unnecessarily convoluted and not intuitive.

In my opinion, having a high Initiative should lead to an advantageous position throughout the combat encounter. Most of the time, this doesn’t seem to be the case. Sure, if you can defeat the enemy before it is even their turn, that’s awesome. But usually, combat encounters take longer and devolve to a simple back and forth between the parties.

The Ready Action should give characters with higher Initiative the possibility to wait and respond to the actions of their enemies. But that seems cumbersome. Readying a spell consumes a spell slot AND requires concentration. Plus, you have to use your reaction in order to take the readied action, which is bad for anybody who likes for example the Shield spell. This also screws with characters who have Multiattack.

That’s why I would like to make some changes to my home game and replace the Ready Action with Delay Action.

When it is your turn, you could just delay your turn. In order to do so, you would still have to define what you are waiting for. For example, you could wait for somebody to move, cast a spell, drop their weapon, etc. . Your turn could then happen immediately before or after the event that triggered your delayed action, but not during the event.

I think I read somewhere that the designers of DND 5e didn’t like delaying actions, because this could screw with the duration of effects that last “until your next turn”. I don’t think that’s a problem. Effects like that would just last until your original place in the initiative order, not until your delayed turn.

I am not a game designer and I don’t possess the foresight to predict all the consequences such a change could have on my game. That’s why I came here ^^. My question is:

What are potential problems or drawbacks this change could cause? Are there major balancing issues with delaying actions instead of readying actions?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented May 14, 2018 at 12:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ What level are your players? \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 14, 2018 at 15:20

2 Answers 2


I think I read somewhere that the designers of DND 5e didn’t like delaying actions, because this could screw with the duration of effects that last “until your next turn”. Effects like that would just last until your original place in the initiative order, not until your delayed turn.

This is going to be a fantastic way to get rid of paralysis effects or other major debuffs, or buffs on your target.

I delay until the monster's turn ends.

This is probably the exact case the designers were worried about. You can use the delaying system to easily wait until short-duration effects run out in the turn order.

Also, you have to think about what happens to things that let you save against them at the end of your turn; if you get to roll a new saving throw against Hold Person you could just delay your turn, roll the save at the end of your turn, then take your delayed turn without the downsides of the spell.

For more information; 4th edition had both "end-of-turn" effects and the Delay action. You might want to check how they handled it there, but it became quite messy over time due to exactly the kind of reasons that made the 5e designers decide to drop the feature.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Is “turn end” a perceivable trigger for Readied actions in the first place? I would argue no, making the first part of your answer invalid. I agree with the point though, it does become open to that abuse \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 14, 2018 at 14:28
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I think this could easily be avoided by saying if you can't take Main, Bonus or Move actions then you can't Delay them to later in the turn. Logical extension to rules in my opinion, ie if something would stop you from taking an action that action is burned for the remained of the turn order. \$\endgroup\$
    – Aruthawolf
    Commented May 14, 2018 at 15:19
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ @Aruthawolf "You have disadvantage on attacks until the end of the monster's next turn"; "ok, I'll just delay my turn until after the monster goes". You could build a rule framework that solves this, but it would add complexity and it would probably have strange holes. \$\endgroup\$
    – Yakk
    Commented May 14, 2018 at 15:27
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @D.BenKnoble probably not, but "after the monster moves or attacks" is and that'd work. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Commented May 14, 2018 at 18:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Yakk How about simple phrasing like any detrimental effects that hit your Main action get transferred to your Delayed action as if preformed at your normal turn order. I think the benefits of improving the Ready action outweigh the complications. \$\endgroup\$
    – Aruthawolf
    Commented May 15, 2018 at 8:56

As a related idea, if you're worried about abuse of EOT effects, you could import the 3E version of Delay (which delays your entire turn, not a specific action).

The differences:

  1. No need to set a trigger, you just decide when you want to go. This is handy to avoid choice paralysis - just delay, no need to figure anything else out yet.

  2. You always act after the inciting action, you can't interrupt like you can with a readied action. With #1, this is necessary, otherwise you could interrupt anybody trying anything, and it also means less rollback needed.

  3. Your initiative changes to the new position that you acted in. This balances using it to avoid timing-based penalties. You delayed until the enemy's buff ran out? Ok, but that means the enemy will be going before you from this point on. You use it to extend a buff you're providing to others? Ok, you effectively sacrificed a turn to make it last one round longer. It also prevents taking two turns in a row.

I've used in this games and it hasn't caused any balance problems. In my case I kept Ready around as another alternative, since it provides different benefits (ability to interrupt, primarily).


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