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I ran into a situation with ready action that I feel goes against the spirit of the game and maybe the rules but I'm unsure.

I'm running a homebrew game. I made this Bladesinger NPC that I gave a magic item, so that when they took the Dodge action, they got more reactions. He challenged my players' character to a fight and if they could put up a good fight for X amount of rounds, he would give them information.

Once they figured out he was taking the Dodge action every turn and hitting them with reactions, they came up with the following Ready action: "When he stops benefitting from Dodge and before he uses his action, I want to swing my sword/cast a spell/shoot an arrow".

It was late in the session, they had almost reached the point where the fight was going to end anyway, and I couldn't really see where they had technically broken a rule, so I allowed it for just that fight. I'm not going to allow it in future fights and this guy and his magic item might never come back, but was my players' ready action legal?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you clarify by what you mean by "more reactions"? Do you mean that the NPC has access to an expanded selection of reactions? Or do you mean that they can take multiple reactions per turn? \$\endgroup\$ – Andrendire Mar 18 '20 at 17:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's almost exactly like the hydras reactive heads, but they still got their normal reaction as well to cast spells like shield. \$\endgroup\$ – bloodmonarcy Mar 20 '20 at 2:00
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It depends how you consider the game world to work

Dodging ends at the start of your turn, if the NPC immediately takes the dodge action, has any time passed between one dodge and the other? In my opinion the NPC never stopped dodging. Even if they did, I'm not convinced there is any perceivable way to notice if someone is ready to dodge or not.

The second problem I have with this trigger is that triggers when dodging ends. The rules for readying an action state:

First, you decide what perceivable circumstance will trigger your reaction

Turns don't exist to PCs, so it's hard to imagine that dodge ending when the NPCs turn comes around is something that can be observed.

Overall I find that trigger too technical, and doesn't really take into account the way the game world is functioning. I don't see any other way to make the ready action work here, without DM fiat (more on that later).

I would ask for what the player is looking for, what they expect their PC to be reacting to. If they give some mechanical answer about turns or actions, then that's a good sign that their trigger isn't legal.

What other options did the player have?

  • One simple way to counter dodging is to grapple the target. A grappled target's speed is 0, which means they can't benefit from dodging. Since it uses a grapple check instead of an attack roll, they don't have advantage from dodge.

  • Similarly you could use shove to push them prone, in which case dodge's advantage is countered by advantage when attacking prone targets from 5ft.

  • Another option is to get out of sight. Depending on the situation this may he easier or harder. If you can break line of sight (or hide) then dodge doesn't give advantage against attacks.

  • Dodge back. Clearly the NPC likes dodging, perhaps by dodging back they will be forced to change tactics or that will be enough to earn their respect.

  • As a DM you may allow some clever reactions. For example perhaps readying an action for when the Bladesinger attacks. Even though the PC may be hit too, the Bladesinger has to commit in order to attack, so as a DM it may be a fair ruling to say that the Bladesinger isn't dodging while attacking. Waiting for other distractions or setting a trap for the Bladesinger may be acceptable to you too, but all of this is just DM fiat.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Optional flanking rules will also negate the advantage of dodge. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Mar 17 '20 at 11:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Turns don't exist to PCs, so it's hard to imagine that dodge ending when the NPCs turn comes around is something that can be observed" -- exactly. The trigger as used in the question involves game mechanics, not the narrative itself. The player characters are controlled by, but can't observe, game mechanics, and so triggers based on the game mechanics don't make any sense. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Duniho Mar 18 '20 at 18:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ This question makes it sound like to comes down to "is D&D better-off played as a realistic battle, or as a Magic: the Gathering match with stack resolutions and instantaneous triggers?" I'm not sure there's a correct answer, but I've never seen it laid out as clearly as you have. Well done. \$\endgroup\$ – Michael W. Mar 18 '20 at 18:57
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There is no time between turns, per se. If a creature dodge one turn and then dodges the next turn then it is dodging continuously. So your ruling would be incorrect. A creature that is dodging never stops dodging.

Your players are trying unorthodox methods because your magic item broke the gaming system. As far as I know, the high level Cavalier Vigilant Defender capstone is the only feature that allows multiple reactions per turn. So allowing multiple reactions is very powerful dynamic. This is why homebrews that change the action economy should be approached with extreme caution.

You didn't say what allowed the NPC to take those multiple reactions, so it's possible that your magic item just allowed a creature to have permanent disadvantage, basically an improved invisibility that only allowed [multiple] reactions.

Let's also dig in to what you were allowing the NPC to do.

Holding an Action

This would not be allowed by a dodging creature, because Dodge is the action.

Opportunity Attacks

These have to be triggered. So I'm not sure exactly what the multiple reactions are doing.

In summary: It's a mess. You should have the magic item fall down an endless well and move on from these mechanics, or else the players will be scheming how to kill your NPC to have it for themselves.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Where did they say the NPC was holding an action? \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Mar 17 '20 at 14:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm a little skeptical about the idea that multiple reactions on an NPC breaks the game system. Firstly, NPCs are not PCs, and so they don't have to obey the leveling economy. A good example is the CR 1/4 Goblin, which essentially has the Rogue's level 2 Cunning Action. Another would be Legendary Actions, which are not accessible to PCs at all. I don't think the OP said that the NPC was readying actions or using opportunity attacks either (and just be careful with using terminology from older editions btw). Your cautioning of changes to the action economy is good advice. \$\endgroup\$ – user-024673 Mar 18 '20 at 2:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Chris, they didn't say what the reactions wee, and since this is unknown territory I chose to address 2 options. \$\endgroup\$ – Tiger Guy Mar 18 '20 at 3:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @pllpnakjlx, Rogues & Goblins get a very limited set of things that can be done as Bonus Actions, that doesn't include attacks. Legendary Actions are Legendary, so I wouldn't expect this from an NPC. Because the Party needed to defeat someone who was dodging and doing something I figured that the NPC was somehow attacking. But maybe it's just a ton of Hellish Rebukes? \$\endgroup\$ – Tiger Guy Mar 18 '20 at 4:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ScottDunnington I was just pointing out that NPCs don't get PC-like features at the same level PCs do. So I'm not sure that Vigilant Defender really adds much to the discussion. Assuming the OP used class features (which there isn't any need to, since an NPC isn't a PC), perhaps they might have been using Battlemaster's Riposte. \$\endgroup\$ – user-024673 Mar 18 '20 at 4:18

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