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From the Basic Rules section on Concentration:

Some spells require you to maintain concentration in order to keep their magic active. If you lose concentration, such a spell ends.

If a spell must be maintained with concentration, that fact appears in its Duration entry, and the spell specifies how long you can concentrate on it. You can end concentration at any time (no action required).

The rule is very short and only says "at any time (no action required)". How this "any time" is defined?

An example scenario:

I cast levitate on an enemy to remove them from the battle. Later at his turn, it turns out that he brings a crossbow. The DM declares the attack, but then I interrupt him and say that I end my concentration, so he will fall down and become prone.

Another example scenario:

I cast levitate on myself and fly 30 ft. The enemy then flies and spends all his movement to fly to me to attack me in melee. After he reaches me, I declare ending my concentration, so I can fall back to the ground, preventing him to attack me.

Is this allowed? Can I end concentration conveniently any time, interrupting any currently declared action/event?

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is not the question, but note that Levitate says "When the spell ends, the target floats gently to the ground if it is still aloft". So your target won't actually fall prone (regardless of the actual answer to the question) \$\endgroup\$ – Jorn Jan 20 at 22:55
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You can end concentration at any time (no action required).

As it says above, you can end it at any time, no action required. It means you don't need to use a reaction, so you can elect to just end it.

Which means yes, you can end your concentration as an enemy approaches so that you drop out of their reach.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Is it worth adding that doing so would not only preclude the intended action attack, but also an opportunity attack? (Per Opportunity Attacks: "For example, you don't provoke an opportunity attack if an explosion hurls you out of a foe's reach or if gravity causes you to fall past an enemy") \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jan 20 at 18:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ It might be but that wasn't part of the question. \$\endgroup\$ – Lino Frank Ciaralli Jan 20 at 19:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ How do you apply this reading to abilities that use an action but can be used "at any time"? Do you allow them to use their action during someone else's turn? \$\endgroup\$ – jgn Nov 1 at 6:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jgn you get one action per turn, so not you would not get to use an action during during someone else's turn, you still only get one action and you can only use it during your turn. In that case the specifics of "an action" is important. \$\endgroup\$ – John Nov 1 at 13:56
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You can end concentration at any time (no action required)

but

The DM will decide how it affects already declared actions.

Rule of Cool may let you use this trick once or twice to avoid attacks - but your DM can prevent you from abusing this :

  1. There is no "stack" in DnD, as opposed to Magic the Gathering. You don't interrupt, and act first. Once that crossbow shot / charge has been declared and you respond with ending concentration, it's up to the DM to decide in which order those should be resolved.
  2. Rules state that free fall (from less than 100m) is resolved instantaneously... but do not specify anything regarding "floating gently to the ground" - which makes you an easy target, as you don't exert control on your movement.
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"On someone else's turn" is not a time.

The unit of combat time is the round, which is about six seconds.

The turn is not an interval of time. It's a procedure for declaring what a character spends the round doing. If during the round you want to drop concentration on a spell, you can do that, but we resolve it on your turn because you're the one doing it.

You can say, on your turn, "I step back about ten paces, take a shot with my bow, and then stop concentrating on levitate." Or you can do it in any other order, because "at any time". What you can't do is declare a sequence of actions on your turn and then, when you see what someone else is doing, say "Wait, right before she attacks, I wanted to stop concentrating." That would open the door for them to say "Then I want to attack one second earlier, before he stops concentrating."

Initiative order tells us who has to commit to a course of action first.

If you really want to do something at a specific moment relative to someone else's action, you can take a Ready action. Normally, you can only use that to take an action or to move. On the other hand, the rule about dropping concentration says "no action required", not that you can't improvise an action to do it.

However, even if you do Ready an action for "if someone attacks", they get to finish attacking before you interrupt their turn. There are reactions that will preempt the triggering condition (the shield spell, for one) but the Ready action generally doesn't.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Coming back to this question, I like this answer more and more. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Oct 30 at 2:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just a note, if using the Ready action in this way, a better trigger in this scenario would be “if he draws a ranged weapon” rather than “if he attacks”. This way you would break concentration after the trigger finishes, that being him drawing the weapon, but before he could make the attack (as a Readied action takes places immediately after the trigger finishes). \$\endgroup\$ – Liam Morris - Reinstate Monica Oct 30 at 4:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Your example scenario (ending with "Then I want to attack one second earlier, before he stops concentrating.") doesn't account for the fact that the attack requires an action, dropping concentration doesn't. You can't take (non-reaction) actions before your turn, and they're active, not reactive. There are other non-actions that can be taken at any time (e.g. brief shouts to teammates during combat), and you can presumably do those at any time too; I'm not seeing how "stopping thinking hard" is any more "actiony" than yelling "Watch out for the mage!" or the like. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowRanger Oct 30 at 14:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowRanger Talking isn't an action but it still has to be done on your turn. "You can communicate however you are able, through brief utterances and gestures, as you take your turn." There's no category of activity that can be done "at any time" in the sense that you can interrupt whatever else is going on. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Oct 30 at 15:28
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To interrupt another character's turn usually takes a Reaction

The problem here is that the game's mechanical means to interrupt another's turn is the reaction. Dropping concentration does not require an action (and since action and reaction are similar currency, should not require a reaction) so you need to discuss with your DM whether or not you can

  1. by default interrupt any currently declared action/event to stop concentrating at any given time, or
  2. if you must wait to stop it when it is your turn.

    a. For case 2, if as the flying creature approaches you he sees you dropping, would he not adjust his course to try intercept you?

    b. And for case 1, how does the DM determine if he got off that shot before you stopped concentrating? Dex check? Int check? An advocate for that character could argue that they loosed the shot "at the apex" before they you noticed them and chose to stop concentration.

    It might seem to a given DM that you are manipulating the turn system mechanics to provide a mini-time stop that allows you to interrupt their turn. Discuss with your DM. The only mechanical means to an instant response (reaction) seems not to fit this situation.

Certain special abilities, spells, and situations allow you to take a special action called a reaction. A reaction is an instant response to a trigger of some kind, which can occur on your turn or on someone else’s. (Basic Rules, p. 73)

Since neither of those spells explicitly has that provision, nor does the text on concentration, to interrupt another's turn, then this requires a DM ruling in terms of timing.

Arguments for the interruption

Since your concentration can be broken on another character's turn (when damage is done to you) you can reasonably argue that dropping concentration on another's turn is consistent with that, since

You can end concentration at any time (no action required).

Lino's answer is a valid ruling, as would be a ruling that requires that you only act on your turn unless you have a mechanic that allows you to interrupt another character's turn. Dropping concentration then (only on your turn) would not consume your action - you would still take an action of some sort - but you'd need to wait until your turn to declare that you are dropping concentration.

Whose turn is it anyway?

During a six-second round, each character has a turn.

The game organizes the chaos of combat into a cycle of rounds and turns. A round represents about 6 seconds in the game world. During a round, each participant in a battle takes a turn. The order of turns is determined at the beginning of a combat encounter, when everyone rolls initiative. Once everyone has taken a turn, the fight continues to the next round if neither side has defeated the other. (Basic Rules, p. 72)

OK, when it is someone else's turn ... what happens?

Your Turn
On your turn, you can move a distance up to your speed and take one action. You decide whether to move first or take your action first. Your speed—sometimes called your walking speed—is noted on your character sheet. The most common actions you can take are described in the “Actions in Combat” section later in this chapter. Many class features and other abilities provide additional options for your action.

Since the text on concentration does not require an action (small a) to drop concentration, nor a reaction, then parsing that text literally supports Lino's answer: you aren't using an action, so "any time" can be interpreted as "any time, to include when some other character is taking an action within that six second round."

But it's all "happening at once" during a round

A DM can also rule that you only get to declare what you are doing when it is your turn. Interrupting others (even NPCs and monsters) on their turn is not consistent with this being a turn-based game. Waiting for your turn is consistent with D&D 5e being a turn-based game, with the exception - reaction, which this is not required to use - being when you can interrupt another character's turn.

  • How often will you be happy to see the Monsters interrupt your turn? When playing a turn-based game, how often do you want others to interrupt you during your turn? And for that matter if, as the flying creature approaches you and sees you dropping, would he not adjust his course to try intercept you? It doesn't take an action for him to see your location begin to change, does it?

    Discuss this with your DM and get a ruling. Hopefully, for your idea to work, the GM will see it Lino's way. If not, then wait for your turn and do/declare stuff then.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think it's unambiguous that you can drop concentration on someone else's turn. "Any time" means any time; if they'd meant you could only do it on your turn, they'd have said as much. In response to a question about dropping concentration outside of your turn, Crawford quotes the line from the rules that says, "You can end concentration at any time (no action required)." \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jan 20 at 20:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that concentration can be ended without requiring any actions. Also note that a reaction is a type of action. Ergo, ending concentration explicitly cannot require or consume a reaction, as written. \$\endgroup\$ – Justin Time 2 Reinstate Monica Jan 20 at 20:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ A small support to your argument : A freezing sphere that is not "fired" as the spell completes... can then be thrown or hurled "at any time". Even if RAW, as a DM I wouldn't let this happen outside of turn. \$\endgroup\$ – Bash Jan 21 at 13:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast That's a typical Crawford non-answer: he doesn't actually say "yes, that means on someone else's turn", but he recites the rule, so it sounds like he affirmed whatever you already think the rule says. I don't know why he does this. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Jan 21 at 19:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MarkWells That would be the "Concentration" section, on pg.203 of the PHB. "You can end concentration at any time (no action required)." As the "Reactions" section on pg.190 defines a reaction as a "special action", it by extension also states that a reaction (due to being a type of action) is not required to end concentration. \$\endgroup\$ – Justin Time 2 Reinstate Monica Jan 24 at 6:14

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