A recent D&D Beyond article, Epic House Rules: Potion Toxicity and Quick Drinking, mentioned this houserule:

Variant: Quick Potion Drinking

You can use a bonus action, instead of an action, to drink a potion you’re holding.

I mentioned in a comment:

The only reason I wouldn't use the Quick Potion Drinking rule is if there was a Rogue with the Thief archetype in the party, since it kinda short changes their Fast Hands class feature (the "take the Use an Object action" part).

My reasoning was that a Thief rogue might feel less special if everyone can do something that RAW only they would be able to do. For reference, here's what Fast Hands says (PHB, p. 97):

Starting at 3rd level, you can use the bonus action granted by your Cunning Action to make a Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check, use your thieves' tools to disarm a trap or open a lock, or take the Use an Object action.

Then another user, JamieMcGuire47, replied to my comment with the following information:

@nathanES RAW, you cannot do this. If a magic item (magic is the keyword here, as it divides regular item interaction from magic item interaction) specifically requires the use of an action to activate its ability, the Use an Object action does not apply to it (including fast hands).

The DMG pg.139 discuses potions:

Potions are consumable magic items. Drinking a potion or administering it to another character requires an action.

The DMG p. 141 discusses activating magic items:

"If an item requires an action to activate, that action isn't a function of the Use an Item action, so a feature such as the rogue's Fast Hands can't be used to activate the item.

This suggests that, RAW, Fast Hands does not allow you to drink, say, a potion of healing as a bonus action. If this is the case, I would have to reassess whether or not I would use that rule (since apparently, it doesn't short change the Thief rogue after all).

JamieMcGuire47's reasoning and evidence looks pretty solid to me, and the only consensus I've found on this site seem to agree (although it doesn't really go into proving that assertion); see: What items can a Thief use as a bonus action with his Fast Hands?

Is JamieMcGuire47 correct? Can a Thief rogue not use Fast Hands to drink a potion for the reasons stated?


1 Answer 1


A Rogue cannot use Fast Hands on any magical potion

Magic items do not require the Use an Object action to be activated, but a separate action entirely

The following quote directly addresses how this feature is limited:

[...] If an item requires an action to activate, that action isn't a function of the Use an Object action, so a feature such as the rogue's Fast Hands can't be used to activate the item [...]

- Dungeon Master's Guide (page 141: Chapter 7 - Treasure: Magic Items: Activating an Item)

Mundane items require the Use an Object action to be used

Do note that the above quote applies to magic items and the general quote which applies to mundane items is found in the description of the Use An Object action:

[...] When an object requires your action for its use, you take the Use an Object action [...]

- Player's Handbook (page 193: Chapter 9 - Combat: Actions In Combat: Use An Object)

One specific example given, that is similar to drinking a potion, is that one can drink all the ale in a flagon using their object interaction.

Potions are magic and explicitly need to be "activated"

The question then is whether a potion requires an action to "activate", luckily the nearby sections on "Activating a Magic Item" and "Consumables" state the following:

Activating some magic items requires a user to do something in particular, such as holding the item and uttering a command word, reading the item if it is a scroll, or drinking it if it is a potion [...]

- Dungeon Master's Guide (page 141)

Some items are used up when they are activated. A potion or elixir must be swallowed, or an oil applied to the body. The writing vanishes from a scroll when it is read. Once used, a consumable item loses its magic and no longer functions [...]

- Dungeon Master's Guide (page 141)

Both of these quotes establish that drinking/consuming a potion counts as activating it, and we know that a potion of healing requires an action to be consumed and that it is a magic item, and so its activation is not a function of the Use An Object action. Thus, the Rogue's Fast Hands cannot be used to activate (drink/consume) a magic potion.

Though drinking a flagon of ale and drinking a potion seem incredibly similar there is a key difference: one is magical. How this difference looks like narratively, or why magical things are harder to drink is up to your GM.

That said, Fast Hands can still be used to draw the potion

We already have the following question and the highest-scoring answer there says:

[...] Thus you don't have 2 instances of interact with object going on, you have 1 interact with object (drawing the potion), and a second action that is specific to the magic item in question. [...]

What this means for our Thief is that they could replace the object interaction used to draw the potion with their bonus action from Fast Hands. This would let them still have an available free object interaction to use, likely during their movement.

Of course, they could also have replaced the object interaction during their movement with the bonus action from Fast Hands and used their free object interaction to draw the potion. These are, as far as I'm aware, effectively the same.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is the kind of additional clarification I was looking for, beyond what JamieMcGuire47 said (good though what they came up with was) and what was lacking in the other Q&A I linked to (which doesn't really go beyond what JamieMcGuire47 came up with). Thanks and +1 \$\endgroup\$
    – NathanS
    Commented Nov 29, 2019 at 17:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ I had forgotten that drinking a potion (unintuitively) counts as "activating" it, so this was a good thing to remind myself of as well, thanks for the question1 \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 29, 2019 at 17:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ Indeed, I also find that unintuitive, I think that was the underlying issue behind my question (and my original comment on D&DBeyond). I'm glad to have it cleared up! \$\endgroup\$
    – NathanS
    Commented Nov 29, 2019 at 17:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think it would be helpful to give some commentary on the particular example given in the PHB for interacting with objects: "drink all the ale in a flagon". \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 27, 2020 at 12:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 Looks great! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 27, 2020 at 14:26

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