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This may be up to the DM, but if the monster that normally lives in the lair is alive, does it need to be in its lair for the lair actions to manifest?

Or is the lair independent of the monster until the monster is dead?

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The creature must be present, as it's the one using the actions, not the lair itself

In the Monster Manual, p. 11, under Lair Actions, it says:

On initiative count 20 (losing all initiative ties), it [meaning: the monster] can use one of its lair action options. It can't do so while incapacitated or otherwise unable to take actions. If surprised, it can't use one until after its first turn in the combat.

(For anyone with an older printing, part of that quote was added in Errata v1.0, December 21, 2015)

From this, it's clear that the creature itself is using the lair action, not the lair itself (especially since it doesn't make any sense for the lair itself to be considered surprised or incapacitated). Therefore, the creature must be present and part of the initiative in order to use the lair actions.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Your lead that it is the creature using the lair is really helpful, thank you! \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Jul 27, 2020 at 15:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ What if the monster is capable of remotely viewing its lair, with something like a Scry spell? \$\endgroup\$
    – nick012000
    Jul 28, 2020 at 5:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nick012000 anyone who can and will actively influence the battle should be part of the initiative order. Since the players could for example detect the scry or try and deceive the watching monster. - Then it will probably depend on the action and the DM if using the action from a distance seems reasonable. \$\endgroup\$
    – Falco
    Jul 28, 2020 at 8:52
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RAW, Lair Actions are actions taken by the creature.

Just using the Adult Red Dragon as an example, the Monster Manual says:

On initiative count 20 (losing initiative ties), the dragon takes a lair action to cause one of the following effects; the dragon can’t use the same effect two rounds in a row.

If the dragon is not around to take actions, then RAW they do not happen. It depends on the dragon being around to take the actions.

But, this is not to say that a DM cannot switch things up a bit! It can make exploring a dragon's cave (or other monster's lair with lair actions) more interesting and engaging if unexpected and dangerous things occur while your adventurers are exploring.

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The monster triggers the lair actions

As of the December 2015 errata to the Monster Manual, the general rules on lair actions state that:

If a legendary creature has lair actions, it can use them to harness the ambient magic in its lair. On initiative count 20 (losing all initiative ties), it can use one of its lair action options. It can't do so while incapacitated or otherwise unable to take actions. If surprised, it can't use one until after its first turn in the combat.

So the monster needs to be around, and it needs to be able to act.

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    \$\begingroup\$ For anyone with an older printing of the MM, part of that quote was added in errata. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Jul 27, 2020 at 14:52

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