When you use a javelin of lightning, exactly what kind of action are you performing?

I'd initially assumed it would just be using your entire action, but it doesn't specifically state so. If anything, the text suggests it is part of an Attack action, which means that if you have several javelins of lightning and the Extra Attack class feature, you could throw several of them in one Attack action.


It is part of an Attack action

The description of the javelin of lightning says (emphasis mine):

This javelin is a magic weapon. When you hurl it and speak its command word, it transforms into a bolt of lightning, forming a line 5 feet wide that extends out from you to a target within 120 feet. [...] The lightning bolt turns back into a javelin when it reaches the target. Make a ranged weapon attack against the target. On a hit, the target takes damage from the javelin plus 4d6 lightning damage.

The javelin's property can't be used again until the next dawn. In the meantime, the javelin can still be used as a magic weapon.

This seems a little ambiguous at first. The special ability of the javelin is essentially a way for it to do damage to the primary target and other creatures along the way, but it still involves a ranged weapon attack against that primary target - and the way you do that is to "hurl" the weapon (i.e. throw it). Thus, it seems reasonable to interpret it as a single weapon attack made as part of the Attack action, since nothing in the item's description says otherwise - you're simply attacking as normal, and saying a command word to activate its special ability when you do so.

Rules designer Jeremy Crawford unofficially confirms this interpretation on Twitter:

When using the special ability of Javelin of Lightning does the attack have disadvantage if target is outside normal range for a standard javelin rwa? Is this ability part of an Attack Action or some kind of magic item activation? RAI>RAW if they differ.

The attack portion of the javelin of lightning follows the normal rules for an attack with a javelin, and it can be done as part of the Attack action.

In short, it's a single attack within the Attack action, and follows the corresponding rules. Essentially, you throw it as you would any javelin as part of an Attack action, you potentially speak its command word to transform it into a bolt of lightning as it flies through the air, and then it turns back into a javelin as it hits the target (doing extra damage if you activated its special ability).

This magic javelin's description does note: "The javelin's property can't be used again until the next dawn." So if you had multiple javelins of lightning somehow and you had the Extra Attack feature, you could theoretically throw multiple ones in a single turn, but you'd be using up both javelins' ability to be used in this way for the day. (Not to mention that you'd have to have at least one of the javelins already drawn at the start of the turn, since you'd use your one free object interaction for the turn to draw a javelin.)

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Crawford specifically refers to page 141 of the DMG which indicates that activating and hurling the item is an action IF an item requires an action. His use of the word attack action does make a potential contradictory inference implying that multiple javelins could be activated and used. The javelin of lightning description does not use the word attack action or item activation action. And ranged attack is not a specific action description, just a type of attack. The developers would have done themselves a favor by using the words ‘as part of an attack action’ or ‘using an action to activate the javelin...’

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi Robert, welcome to the site! You may want to take the tour. \$\endgroup\$ – Raj Oct 14 at 18:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ "Crawford specifically refers to page 141 of the DMG" - Where does Crawford refer to DMG p. 141? Did you intend to link to a tweet of his (a different one from the one linked in my answer, which doesn't mention the DMG at all)? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Oct 16 at 5:46

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