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I was reading the rules for the "ready" action, and they give an example for a specific action a player might ask to have at the ready:

“If the goblin steps next to me, I move away.”

Let's say I had that exact case, and on the goblin's turn it moves to that player and attacks.

What would happen then? Would the player movement be triggered before the goblin attacks? And would that movement trigger an opportunity attack from the goblin?

Thanks!

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You would be able to move before the goblin could take the Attack action

For my answer, I'm going to assume this particular goblin lost its shortbow and can only make melee attacks. Unless the goblin is only 5 feet away when it starts to move towards you, and you have readied movement under the trigger:

"If the goblin moves towards me, I move away"

you should be able to use your readied movement to run away from the goblin once it has moved at least 5 feet. It does not need to complete all of its movement before you can use your readied movement.

But if it can make an opportunity attack, that still happens

However, if you use the readied trigger:

"If the goblin steps next to me, I move away"

then the goblin would be stood next to you before you would be able to act, since according to this answer to a different question, a readied action does not interrupt its trigger but happens afterwards. This is also mentioned on PHB p. 193 (or in the corresponding part of the basic rules), under the description of the "Ready" action (emphasis mine, or rather, enkryptor's):

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

Therefore, the goblin would be able to make an opportunity attack against you as you run away.

Also, if the goblin is only 5 feet away, then even if your trigger was to run away when the goblin moved towards you rather than stood next to you, it would have already moved 5 feet and would now be stood next to you, since readied actions don't interrupt their triggers. You can still run away before it makes its Attack, but it would still get an opportunity attack against you, which is much the same outcome you were trying to avoid.


Caveats

As pointed out by Slagmoth in comments, if you chose only to move, say, 10 feet rather than using your whole movement, then depending on how far away the goblin was, it may still potentially catch up with you and make an Attack action against you.

Even if you did use all your movement, it may also take the Dash action to run next to you (assuming you were within 60 feet of it, even after you moved away), ready to hit you on its next turn (or with an opportunity attack if you chose to move away again without disengaging, although you would have already used up your reaction this turn so that would be on your next turn, allowing you to adjust your tactics accordingly).


NB: By "only 5 feet away", I mean "in terms of a grid, there is one unoccupied square between you and the goblin" (just in case there's any confusion about what I meant).

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    \$\begingroup\$ The OP asked about "goblin steps next to me" not "goblin comes toward me." It looks like you're either explaining a different situation accidentally or implying an alternative that would work. \$\endgroup\$ – Bloodcinder Aug 14 '18 at 13:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Bloodcinder I have updated my answer to make it clearer based on your feedback. \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Aug 14 '18 at 13:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ Another thing to consider is that the goblin can continue to move. So unless you move your entire 30 feet you might still be in a pickle, and it can still Dash if it hasn't used its Action that turn. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Aug 14 '18 at 14:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Slagmoth I have included your suggestions; they strike me as "caveats", so I've put them under such a heading. \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Aug 14 '18 at 14:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS could you please add the quotation from the PHB - "When the trigger occurs, you can either take your reaction right after the trigger finishes or ignore the trigger" \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Aug 14 '18 at 14:48
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Readied Actions Can Trigger Opportunity Attacks.

tl;dr If the enemy gets within range for an opportunity attack (OA), moving away will trigger one.

No OA: Moving away before the enemy closes to within range.

If the character is not in range, then the point is mute. However, the trigger would have to be something different. Perhaps "If the goblin moves towards me, I move away."

Yes OA: Moving away after the enemy closes the distance.

Once the enemy is within range for their OA, moving away will trigger it. In this case:

“If the goblin steps next to me, I move away.”

The enemy clearly gets next to the character before they move away.

Ordering Events

While the description of events is a more or less simultaneous melee, the mechanics are handled sequentially for simplicity sake. The event where the goblin steps next to the character must happen in order to trigger the reaction of moving away.

Triggers that get what you want.

You could tell the GM the intent of the readied action, and have them help with the wording while keeping it simple. Alternative triggers to avoid an opportunity attack could be:

  • When the goblin comes within 10', I move away.
  • When the goblin moves towards me, I move away.
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The goblin would get an opportunity attack only.

Considering this exact case...

"If the goblin steps next to me, I move away." ...and on the goblin's turn it moves to that player and attacks [with a melee weapon].

...the following is the order of what happens.

  1. The goblin moves toward the PC from some distance. This doesn't match the PC's trigger until the goblin is next to the PC.

  2. The goblin arrives next to the PC after some movement. This matches the trigger. (Note that this situation is perceivable, which is a requirement of a ready trigger.)

  3. The PC's readied move triggers. They move away from the goblin.

  4. The PC's movement out of the goblin's reach provokes an opportunity attack from the goblin while the PC is moving away. If the goblin has its reaction, it can take the opportunity attack before the PC actually moves away. (Note that this is a completely separate attack from the attack the goblin was intending to make.)

  5. The PC is possibly no longer in range of the goblin. Unless the goblin can continue moving in such a way that it gets another chance to make an attack, the one it intended to make is quashed. (Note that technically the goblin can't "move to the player and attack" as if that is an unbreakable sequence. It can move, then it can attack if eligible. The PC's movement nullifies that eligibility, since the PC is no longer in the goblin's reach. However, the goblin could choose to do something else now if able, such as make a ranged attack with a different weapon or continue moving until it is in reach again. Regardless, the original intended attack probably can't happen.)

In general (to help you clarify future cases), a ready trigger specifies a perceivable situation that triggers it, and the trigger activates immediately after that situation is perceived. All you need to know is whether something is perceivable. For example:

  • You could perceive when the goblin arrives next to you, since you see it happen, so the trigger happens right after it arrives.

  • You couldn't perceive when the goblin considers moving next to you before it actually does so, so you couldn't move before it moves next to you. However, if you instead trigger to move when it is 10 feet away rather than when it is next to you, you could perceive that and move away before it is in reach, avoiding both an opportunity attack and the original intended attack.

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