One of the Lair Actions of a lich does the following:

The lich rolls a d8 and regains a spell slot of that level or lower. If it has no spent spell slots of that level or lower, nothing happens.

A lich decided to attack the party, using some of its spell slots in the process, and then retreat to its lair to recover and await the party.

If the party manage to find the lich's lair within 8 hours (i.e. before the lich can long rest and recover its spell slots that way), would the above Lair Action have (likely1) restored all of the lich's spent spell slots (excluding the 9th level spell slot, obviously)?

Or is there some reason this wouldn't work, such as the Lair Actions only being "active" when there are enemies of the lich actually in the lair (i.e. during combat)?

1 I say "likely" because there's a dice roll involved, so technically it could not roll the numbers it needs to actually recover all its spell slots, but let's discount that possibility as I imagine an hour or so of rolling will almost definitely roll the numbers that it needs eventually.

  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ I never read that lair action, really gives the lich a lot to do with their time and effective unlimited high level spell slots! Makes being a lich even more tempting \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 9:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @seriousbri Tempting, except for having to feed a soul to your phylactery each month. \$\endgroup\$
    – Verdan
    Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 17:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Verdan With that much power at your disposal, a soul a month is really pretty easy to acquire. \$\endgroup\$
    – raithyn
    Commented Jun 30, 2020 at 1:19

3 Answers 3


Lair actions use the magic of the lair

Creatures use lair actions to "harness the ambient magic in [their] lair." There isn't any reason to believe that they can only do this while fighting.

Actions only exist when acting in initiative order

Actions codify things that can be done when characters are acting in initiative order. You can't take an action out of combat because you don't need to. Out of combat you aren't taking turns and tracking every 6 seconds of time, if you want to do something, you just do it.

The lich can use its lair whenever it wants outside of combat

Just like there's no need to use the Attack action for a player to kick a chair, use the Search action to examine a chest, or the Ready action to wait for something, there is no need for a lich to use a lair action to use the magic of its lair - it just does it.

With 8 hours of rolling I'm confident that a lich could restore all of its spell slots (apart from 9th level).

I wrote a short program to approximate by attempting to fill all slots 1,000,000 times and found that, on average, after about 20 rolls all slots are filled. The lowest number of rolls was 19, the highest was 96. If 1 in a million times the lich takes 20 minutes to regenerate all slots, I think that's pretty good.

  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ As an addition to the odds of refilling all slots, we can take an example from Beholders, who can choose what eyebeam they use outside of combat (I think that's in Volo's, but I don't have the book with me) so there's precedent for monsters to use their abilities/features with greater precision outside the action economy. \$\endgroup\$
    – raithyn
    Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 16:53

RAW No (under a very strict reading)

The Lich's legendary actions have the following description:

On initiative count 20 (losing initiative ties), the lich can take a lair action

Out of combat there is no "initiative count 20" so from a very strict reading of the rules the Lich cannot use lair actions.

It should be allowed for consistency's sake

It is commonly accepted that characters can use Actions and Bonus Actions while out of initiative. It would be therefore be reasonable to allow the lich to use lair actions out of combat as well. The lich could attempt to regain a spell slot 5 times in a minute (once every 12 seconds).


Probably yes...

The rules for the monsters tell how they work in combat. Do they work in the same way outside of combat? This is up to the game master; it might be that this is a defense mechanism of the lair and beyond the direct control of the lich, and such is not active except when the lich is under direct attack, but it is at least equally plausible that they special ability works all the time or is controlled by the lich. The game master should decide how the lair functions.

...but consider the level of abstraction

D&D 5 rules provide usually reasonable guidelines around what happens on scales immediately relevant to adventuring. They should not be relied outside this scale of events.

For example: There are no specific rules for the sword arm of the fighter getting tired after hours or days of fighting, yet that is a reasonable outcome in a war situation. Is casting spells more or less exhausting then physical combat? Can a mage cast their cantrips all day long with no rests or breaks between, or do they get tired in tens of minutes? The rules do not answer these questions, since they are outside the assumed level of abstraction of them.

In a similar way, the game master should consider how the magical reserve of the lich's lair works and what, if any, are its limits. A clever lich with an endless supply of magic could and would do wonders; maybe this is how the world is, or maybe the lair has a finite store of power only, or maybe it only works once per day for an hour, or maybe it needs to be refilled with sacrifical offerings.

All of this is out of scope of the written rules. The game master should figure out what creates the most interesting game world for their purposes; an infinite source of magic might be that, but a flavourful source of power is more likely to create interesting gameplay, when the lich needs to start capturing people to sacrifice after an assault to be at full strength against the next assault.


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