It seems logical that you can use the Ready action to prepare to grapple or shove an opponent if triggered. But can you just Ready an attack, and then decide when it's triggered whether to attack as normal or try to grapple or shove?

Similarly, you could certainly Ready a specific weapon attack like "if a creature moves within 5' of me, I swing my mace" or "if any of them draw a weapon, I shoot an arrow at them". But could you just say "I Ready an attack, if any of the creatures move close to us?" and then, when it is triggered, decide which weapon to attack with, whether to attack with melee or range, or (as above) whether to use a weapon or grapple/shove? Or disarm?

A similar situation is Help - you could be planning to help one character do something, but by the time of the trigger, prefer help someone else do something else. Could you just say that you are Ready to Help whoever might need it when [trigger]?

Essentially, how specific do you have to be about the Action you are Readying? Can you be as general as saying you will Ready a move, an Attack, a Help, etc.? Or do you have to say who you will Attack, how (melee/range) and with what weapon, or who you will Help and with which of their Actions, etc.?


3 Answers 3


You only have to state which action you intend to take.

The rules for the Ready action state:

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.

So if you intend to make an attack, you need only state, "I will take the Attack action in response to the trigger." You do not have to specify what weapon it will be with.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I would assume though that you can only attack with a weapon you are currently holding or make an unarmed attack (if possible). The rules on interacting with one item for free during your turn only applies during your turn, not during a reaction. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 7, 2021 at 20:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Allan Correct, normally. Certain situations (Warcaster feat, for example) might offer the player multiple attack options beyond these, though. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rykara
    Apr 8, 2021 at 18:45

I prefer asking my players what they plan to do

I believe Thomas' answer is correct from a RAW standpoint, but it is not how I play.

At my tables, I do prefer the players to provide a clear description of both their trigger and their intended action/movement. I've always seen and played Ready to be specific reaction to a specific trigger. It allows everyone at the table to understand what the plan is (maybe in making combo setups), and also provides a clear response as to when they don't want to use their trigger.

I haven't seen any complaints from players, although it usually does start off with "I'm readying an action...To do what?). It does create a pause while that's determined, but it hasn't been a major issue that addressing or treating it differently would really solve positively.

I do think the positives of the playstyle we use works for us and does put a player more in the mindset of their character as to what they are planning to do.


You have to describe your action as if you were performing it at that time.

The only difference between a readied action and an immediately-taken action is when it occurs. The former occurs at a defined trigger, while the latter occurs immediately.

The rules for the Ready action state:

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.

The wording isn't as clear as it should be, but the word "action" here does not refer to selection among the different types of action, but what the actual action is.

This is supported by the additional guidance for a readied action:

When you ready a spell, you cast it as normal but hold its energy, which you release with your reaction when the trigger occurs.

It would not make logical sense to require spellcasters to decide when readying their "Cast A Spell" action which spell they are going to cast, but to not require melee fighters exactly what kind of attack they will be using when they use the "Attack" action.

Thus the logical conclusion is that regardless of action type, the exact action to be taken must be decided ahead of time.

Looking at the specific example in the question:

could you just say "I Ready an attack, if any of the creatures move close to us?" and then, when it is triggered, decide which weapon to attack with, whether to attack with melee or range

What is "close to us" here? That's not a suitable trigger. Your trigger needs to be stated precisely enough for your DM to unequivocally know when the readied action will actually happen. So at a minimum, you need to specify a distance, not just "close". If this distance is outside of melee range, then you've obviously decided ahead of time to use a ranged attack. If it's inside melee range, you could argue that either a melee or ranged attack could be used, but it's unlikely that you would have meant a ranged attack in that case. More likely is that you've also in that case decided ahead of time to use a melee attack.

Note also that the examples given in the text — "…pull the lever that opens it" and "…move away" — are specific things one does. You can't just say "I'm going to interact with an object", or "I'm going to move" (which could be to the other side of the enemy, or it could be away from it). You have to say exactly how you are going to do those things.

All that said, I would not think it too terribly unbalancing should the DM decide that a less-specific statement is allowed. Assuming the NPCs are given the same degree of leeway so that both sides of a fight are playing by the same rules, I doubt that the outcome of combat would be affected much, if at all, by broadening the rule in this respect.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I do not think it's appropriate to extrapolate out a general rule that applies to all readied actions from a very specific overriding rule for readying spells; D&D5e operates on 'specific beats general', not on 'derive general rules from specific ones'. \$\endgroup\$
    – CTWind
    Apr 8, 2021 at 0:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @CTWind: so it's your contention that the authors of the rules did in fact intend to impose stricter requirements on spellcasters than on melee fighters, with respect to the "Ready an Action" action? I personally find that a clearly erroneous supposition, but you are of course welcome to your own opinion on the matter. I also think it's pretty obvious that if RAI were to allow someone to just say "I'm going to take the Attack action", then that's what the examples given would show. And they don't. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 8, 2021 at 0:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, because they provided a more specific/costly restriction on what it takes to ready a spell. \$\endgroup\$
    – CTWind
    Apr 8, 2021 at 0:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ I would think that Readying an Attack action would at least give you the same scope of options as an opportunity attack does, since they both involve your reaction. With an OA, you get to choose at that time which melee weapon to use, if you happen to be holding 2 weapons. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 8, 2021 at 3:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Erïch: yes, that is a reasonable interpretation. But unfortunately, it doesn't decide the question. There's a range of possibilities between "you simply choose the Attack action" and "you specify down to the last detail how the Attack will be carried out". I agree the latter isn't required, but I also don't believe that the former is what the rules say. The examples given as part of the rules make that clear enough. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 8, 2021 at 6:55

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