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A Marilith picks up a Longbow to use in combat. It walks to a tower window overlooking a large battle with many creatures. It takes the Ready Action with a trigger of "when a creature moves or attacks, I will shoot it".
Mariliths can take a reaction on every turn of combat.

Does the Marilith get to shoot every creature on the battlefield before its next turn?

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RAW: Unclear

The rules for this are in the PHB, which mostly deals with PCs, which in turn usually can’t get multiple reactions (the only ways which can grant you multiple reactions tend to be limited to attacks of opportunity, and even those were only written after the PHB was released).

As such there is no language explicitly limiting the trigger to only be able to occur once in a round, even though I suspect that it is the intended reading. I find saying “the rules don’t explicitly say you can’t, so you can” not to be a useful guiding principle so I’d say the RAW isn’t clear on this. I personally would rule that no, you can only use your reaction to react to a trigger you set with Ready once because action economy wise that just makes a lot more sense, but I do not believe that a strict RAW reading of the section yields this as the answer.

RAW probably doesn’t matter in this case

If you decide your Marilith is picking up a longbow and shooting people with it you’re already moving beyond a literalist RAW reading, as of course shooting things with a longbow is not listed in the creature's statblock. This is not a big variation and perfectly in your purview of things to do as a DM, but you have to decide on what the consequences here are. For example, does it still get a Multiattack? If so, how many? Maybe it only gets 3 shots because it needs two arms for each bow? Similarly, the multi reaction thing was very probably themed after it using its many arms with one handed weapons; Does that still even apply if it uses bows instead? Should it still work even if it is using only one bow?

At this point what you need to realise that you are effectively homebrewing a slightly different creature with a slightly different statblock, and it’s on you as a DM to figure out how it should work. There isn’t that much helpful RAW guidance for you here. NPCs aren’t bound by quite the same rules as PCs to begin with, you should just make sure that whatever you do it makes sense in fiction so your players can know what to expect from your description of events.

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    \$\begingroup\$ you're focusing a lot on the bow issue, but that's not answering the question, and your first paragraph is very inconclusive (summarizable as "I dunno"). The example might just as well be a marilith that is about to get charged by, let's say 4 orcs, and the Ready action is "I hit everything that gets into melee range with a sword". \$\endgroup\$ – PixelMaster Jul 8 at 15:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ I like this answer, but PixelMaster has a point; if you exclude the bow, there's still a valid question here (you can still keep the section about the bow - it's interesting - but adding another section keeping it to the default melee attacks of the stat block would be a better answer) \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Jul 8 at 15:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ Even in a literalist RAW reading, a marilith is still a creature that can take the Attack Action, attacking once (probably without proficiency) with literally any object or weapon it can physically wield in combat. \$\endgroup\$ – Speedkat Jul 8 at 16:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PixelMaster It’s not inconclusive at all. I am not saying I don’t know, I am saying RAW doesn’t give an answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Cubic Jul 8 at 17:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ "The rules for this are in the PHB, which mostly deals with PCs" I think this is shaky grounds for your argument. For one thing, these rules are in the basic rules too. For another, all monsters follow the rules in the basic rules. For example the rules for attacking are in the PHB, does that mean monsters can't attack? RAW seems pretty clear, you are ready until your next turn, if the trigger comes up you can use your reaction. I'm not sure which part is ambiguous to you, you have just kind of stated it without explaining why. \$\endgroup\$ – user-63873687 Jul 9 at 5:53
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No, they can still only Ready once.

A Marilith can take a reaction every turn based on their stat block:

Reactive. The marilith can take one reaction on every turn in a combat.

But if you want to Ready an action, that still takes up your Action to do so. They would opt out of their 'normal' attack to Ready, but they can only Ready on their turn. This leads to them setting up only one Reaction. And it would mean removing their 6 attacks and replacing it with one melee attack.

Whether or not that can actually React to something on someone else's turn is dependent on a trigger. No trigger to give them a Reaction, means no Reaction.

Readied actions have a single perceivable and specific trigger, but DMs have more control over the specificity and terms.

The Ready Action requires:

First, you decide what perceivable circumstance will trigger your reaction. Then, you choose the action you will take in response to that trigger, or you choose to move up to your speed in response to it. Examples include "If the cultist steps on the trapdoor, I'll pull the lever that opens it," and "If the goblin steps next to me, I move away."

The examples suggest the Ready must be specific. However, it doesn't state that Ready remains or doesn't remain after the first trigger. If your DM allows more general, or allows the Ready to be persistent, then this may work. But it does seem like a Ready is specific and unlikely to occur on multiple turns.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure this logic follows. They use the ready an action, which means defining a trigger. For most of us, we only get to pull that trigger once. But does the trigger really go away once pulled? \$\endgroup\$ – goodguy5 Jul 8 at 15:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch That's not strictly true; there are creatures that can make their allies attack as a reaction. So an example of a specific trigger could be "I attack enemy X when they attack". On enemy X's turn, they attack, and you react. Then enemy Y, who is some commander with an ability that can make its allies attack as a reaction, uses that ability. Enemy X attacks again (using its reaction). Now you can attack it again with your new reaction. Same trigger. RAW doesn't state either way (luckily, you are more ambiguous in your answer's wording, but your comment I disagree with your reasoning). \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Jul 8 at 15:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ That's fair enough. I do find the answer's title a little odd, since the question wasn't asking "can I ready multiple times", but "can I use the one readied action multiple times". Just the wording of the opening title seems at odds with that, is all... \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Jul 8 at 16:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ Oh yeah, this isn't optimal at all, but I'm just trying to show how I think it would be technically possible to react twice to one trigger if one had multiple reactions. Anyway, this comment thread is getting rather long, so I'm going to leave it there. \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Jul 8 at 16:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ At the start of Ready it states " To do so, you can take the Ready action on your turn, which lets you act using your reaction before the start of your next turn." which seems to say that you remain ready until your next turn. In the section about acting on the trigger, it doesn't mention that you stop being ready if you ignore or act on a trigger. What is the argument for enough ambiguity that a DM ruling is required? \$\endgroup\$ – user-63873687 Jul 9 at 5:51
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No, but not for the reason you may think

Ready states:

When the trigger occurs, you can either take your reaction right after the trigger finishes or ignore the trigger. Remember that you can take only one reaction per round.

This second sentence is just a reminder. The Marilith has more than one reaction, so it's an exception to the normal rule. As such, there isn't anything in Ready stopping it from reacting to multiple triggers.

Note that even in normal gameplay multiple triggers often occur. A player is always free to ignore a trigger, hoping that the trigger will occur again with more favourable circumstances (for example waiting for the last goblin to step onto a rope bridge before cutting the ropes).

Your trigger is too broad

Triggers need to be something very specific, you can't use "when a creature moves or attacks, I will shoot it" as a trigger. The Marilith could instead guard a doorway, and state "when an enemy walks through the door, I will shoot it", and shoot everyone who walks through the door.

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Yes, if

The following criteria need to be met:

  • The trigger meets your group's interpretation of the criteria in the PHB for the ready action

    • It must be perceptible
    • It may need refer to a singular circumstance depending on GM (this is a bad ruling for a variety of reasons, but it is designed to prevent and does in fact prevent this specific trick and tricks like it, and it is fairly common and RAW-compliant if you squint the right way)
  • The creatures involved each get separate turns

    • This limits you to one attack per group for certain implementations of group initiative, as well as for groups of summoned monsters that share a turn
    • This limits you to attacking either a controlled mount or its rider, for certain implementations of the controlled mount rules
    • This prevents you from attacking all of the bonded creatures and the master of a bonded-creature-user like e.g. simulacra or a PHB Beast Master Ranger.
  • The creatures involved each meet the perceptible criteria on their turns

    • They must all move or attack, and do so in a perceptible way
    • They must all be perceptible from your vantage point at the time of the attack's completion or at the point the group has readied actions triggering off of movement happen for movement.
  • You must be able to make the attack

    • They must be within range
    • They must not have total cover
    • You need to have enough ammo
    • You need to not be paralyzed, incapacitated, or otherwise prevented from taking actions or attacking specifically
    • You must have a longbow

Note that shooting at a target does not mean hitting it; The Marilith is not proficient in longbows and so each attack is +5 to hit, 1d8+5 damage, which is not a huge amount for a CR 16 monster, although it is admittedly possibly a truly impressive area.

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This is not specified, and thus deliberately left to DM adjudication.

5e, unlike a number of previous versions, wholly embraces the idea of DM adjuducation, and, indeed, leaves a number of ill-defined areas at the edges of rules where DM adjudication is necessary. This is clearly one of those cases.

When the trigger occurs, you can either take your reaction right after the trigger finishes or ignore the trigger. Remember that you can take only one reaction per round.

The "ready an action" rules explicitly include the assumption that you will only have one reaction per round, and therefore do not cover this case. The Marilith rules (of having more than one reaction per round) make no mention of readying an action, and therefore do not cover this case. It is thus in the fuzzy area that each DM must decide for themselves.

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