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The players in my game recently came across a fairly powerful magic sword as the first magic item they found. Shortly after that, they wound up in a boss fight.

The players came up with the ingenious idea of having one player attack with the sword, then hand it to the a nearby player so they could attack with it too. At the time I ruled that passing an item to another player would take an action, so they couldn't do that.

But now I'm reviewing the rules and on pp. 190 of the PHB, it says handing an item to another character is "the sort of thing you can do in tandem with your movement and action." Does this mean it's possible for the PC's to surround an enemy and just pass the sword down the line (in initiative order) so that each one can attack with the same magic sword? That seems over-powered, and a kind of ridiculous way to narrate a combat.

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You might be able to do this once, if the DM allows it

The PHB has some guidance for you on this via the Use An Object option on page 193:

You normally interact with an object while doing something else, such as when you draw a sword as part of an attack...

The section goes on to detail other more complex things that you might expend your Action on to interact with.

The relevant phrase is, 'draw a sword as part of an attack.' This is also interpreted to include things like drawing a second throwing axe if you threw the first.

Most DMs seem to be fine with, one minor object interaction per attack Action is acceptable. This might include handing the sword off to someone else, but bear in mind that the recipient has then used their object interaction to receive the weapon and would NOT be able to pass the weapon off again.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Ah yeah that would make sense. Receiving an object would use up that interaction too \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Sep 4 '18 at 2:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Use An Object also includes picking up weapons from the ground, so people can drop their weapon (this doesn't require any action at all) and their teammates can pick it up afterwards. Attack->Drop->Pick up->Attack \$\endgroup\$ – AntiDrondert Sep 4 '18 at 7:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AntiDrondert That sounds terrible for the weapon! 9 out of 10 blacksmiths frown upon this practice. \$\endgroup\$ – xDaizu Sep 4 '18 at 8:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @xDaizu Not to mention all these cunning rogues in your parties, waiting for the chance to steal everything not nailed to the floor. \$\endgroup\$ – AntiDrondert Sep 4 '18 at 8:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ AntiDrondert brings up a good point that should probably be addressed in this answer: by RAW, the players could technically pull this off by dropping the weapon as long as the next character in the chain was within five feet of them. How would you deal with this tactic? \$\endgroup\$ – Joshu's Mu Sep 4 '18 at 18:13
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This is known as the Peasant Railgun. :-)

Keeping it a more serious, the rules on object interaction talk about what you can do on your turn but don't say what other people can do on your turn (apart from the obvious "nothing" - it's your turn).

Characters handing weapons off to each other in combat is something seen in action movies so I wouldn't want to disallow it at the table. My ruling would be that they need to spend their Reaction to accept an item from you on your turn (as well as requiring an empty hand to hold the item, of course).

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No, this shouldn't work.

The "one free object interaction" rule is this:

You can also interact with one object or feature of the environment for free, during either your move or your action. For example, you could open a door during your move as you stride toward a foe, or you could draw your weapon as part of the same action you use to attack.

Note that the examples are interactions that facilitate your move or action: open the door and walk through; draw your weapon and attack. Disarming yourself does not facilitate attacking.

The free interaction also has to be done during your move or action, and if you attack as your action, you can't possibly hand your weapon to someone else until you're finished attacking.

Sanity check: At any time, the sword is somewhere. At most one person can wield it at a time. So in one minute of combat, the wielder(s) of the sword can make about 10 Attack actions with it, total. However you interpret the rules, it shouldn't allow much more than one Attack action per round. There's some wiggle room due to the inexactness of turns, but not enough for what they're asking for.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree with this logic with the rules. \$\endgroup\$ – Lindsay F. Sep 5 '18 at 15:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Bad post: I agree with this; the rules and reasonability check out. I think this also violates the spirit of the game. A round in combat is not a conga line of actions. Turns are a tool to organize simultaneous interactions. If one person is using the sword, someone else should not be able to use the sword at the same time. Players (and DMs) often forget that turns are meta-game, not how the combat actually works. \$\endgroup\$ – Lindsay F. Sep 5 '18 at 15:19
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In 5e, many rare magic items need to be attuned to an individual in order for that character to utilize the magical benefits of that item. Regardless of the ruling for handing off the sword, if that powerful weapon needs to be attuned to the character, then only one of them would receive the magical benefits of that weapon. For the second character it would operate as a standard sword. For example, a Flame Tongue sword (DMG 170) requires attunement. Attunement also requires a short rest. See page 136 in the DMG for more on attunement.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, that's a good point. This particular case is one where the weapon still had about half its magical effect if used by someone that was not attuned. Also, the boss was resistant to damage from non-magical weapons, which is the obstacle they were really trying to get around. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Sep 4 '18 at 14:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sounds like a fun encounter Erik. Ultimately, it's about having fun at the table. That will be a memorable encounter for them long after your campaign is over. \$\endgroup\$ – Ken Palmer Sep 4 '18 at 16:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ While you're not incorrect, it's not really a relevant answer. The most basic Weapon +X does not require attunement, so pointing out that attunement exists doesn't speak to the question at all. \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym Sep 5 '18 at 18:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ True. OP mentioned "fairly powerful magic sword" which made me think of attunement. It's just a consideration for that scenario. If everyone were passing around a +1 Weapon, then the more upvoted answers are on track. \$\endgroup\$ – Ken Palmer Sep 5 '18 at 19:21
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I like this, and would allow it. Always encourage fun solutions to problems. However I'd point out that this was in the heat of battle and as such a dex role would have to be made and passed by both the person handing off the weapon and the one receiving it in order not to drop the weapon on the floor.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already. Have you used such a house-rule in your own games? How has it worked in your experience? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Sep 4 '18 at 18:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's a physically impossible solution to the problem, so whether it's a fun solution or just an abuse of the timing rules is very much a play style question. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Sep 4 '18 at 18:46

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