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"Potions" (DMG, p. 139) says:

Drinking a potion or administering a potion to another character requires an action.

While I accept that a player can administer a potion (particularly healing) to an unconscious character, it suddenly came up last week that someone wanted to feed a healing potion to the fighter while he was conscious and in combat (with both hands holding weapon/shield).

Is this allowed?

My sense of "administer" is that it's something you to do a creature that is still. You have to grapple a patient before administering a syringe, for example.

It also seems unrealistic to have the wizard slipping in amidst melee combat to pour something down a fighter's throat while they are dodging.

But before I make assumptions that everyone agrees with what I see as "obvious", I figured I should check and make sure I'm not missing something (it's happened before!).


To address from a comment, I feel this is different from trying to force an opponent to drink a potion (of poison, normally). An ally is actively trying to stay still and be fed the potion, while an enemy is actively trying to avoid drinking the potion.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Was the fighter glad to have the potion, or resisting/avoiding (as in the example of the patient with the syringe)? \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Mar 3 at 2:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ Related: "Can one force-feed an opponent a potion in combat?" \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Mar 3 at 2:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Fighter is not resisting the potion - it's just an example of "administer", but I see how it could be misleading. I can't think of a modern day example of one person feeding another conscious and willing person a potion. Maybe a beer funnel? Even then, the recipient holds pretty still. \$\endgroup\$ – M. Vienneau Mar 3 at 2:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ Nope. This isn't about feeding an opponent poison (clearly very hard to do), it's about feeding a healing potion to an ally (possibly very hard to do). \$\endgroup\$ – M. Vienneau Mar 3 at 2:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've updated the question to include an explanation for why feeding an enemy trying to avoid being poisoned is different from feeding an ally who is trying to work with you to get healed. \$\endgroup\$ – M. Vienneau Mar 3 at 3:21
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Yes, administration can be attempted ...

... but it may be difficult to the point of impossibility.

Nothing about the meaning of the sense of the term "administer" preempts giving a drug to a conscious individual.

Lacking a game specific definition of "administering" for the rule "Drinking or administering a potion takes an action" (PHB 153) we use the common meaning of the term. The meaning of administer in this sense is:

From Merriam-Webster

to give remedially administer a dose of medicine

From Lexico:

Dispense or apply (a remedy or drug)

Drugs and remedies can be applied to both conscious and unconscious people.

The difficulty is motion

The difficulty in this case would be applying a remedy (potion) to an individual in motion. It would be well within reason to disallow this on account of the difficulty of imbibing while actively engaged in combat.

Alternatively, the DM requiring an appropriately high sleight-of-hand or other Dexterity based ability check to accomplish the act would apply the game's basic mechanics to an the kind of ad hoc situation that you describe.

Narrative inspiration

Numerous images are easily discoverable of runners ingesting various quantities of various liquids with varying degrees of success. A humorous example of drinking during action are hash house harrier clubs that have drink checks in along a run and some events that involve imbibing beer while running. More analogous to the volume one might expect of a potion would be runners having water squirted administered into their mouths during long runs by their support team.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Please review the edit, I think you nailed the essentials but the prose was a bit balky \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Mar 3 at 3:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Should aslo include the quote: Drinking or administering a potion takes an action. (PHB 153) \$\endgroup\$ – Akixkisu Mar 3 at 3:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you saying the rules require this or that it is possible, but a DM could very easily make the above ruling? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Mar 3 at 14:19
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RAW there's nothing saying you can't

As you've pointed out the potion section says:

Drinking a potion or administering a potion to another character requires an action.

It doesn't say whether the person you're administering the potion to has to be unconscious. I also think this is one of the more reasonable strictly RAW things that makes sense. As you noted, the Fighter actively wants the potion.

If I was fighting someone and my friend said "I'm gonna feed you a potion!" I could take a defensive stance where I make myself smaller and put a shield between myself and my enemy and stand more still. My friend comes up feeds me the potion and I resume my more active stance. Two people travelling together for months to years, constantly getting into combat, are gonna learn some stuff about each other and the way they work.

Note: This example is merely a scenario to describe the rules. I'm using the rules to make a scenario, rather than bending the rules to a scenario I already had in mind

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