The Ready action lets you react to a "perceivable circumstance." Trying to ready an action based on the initiative order is apparently possible, if you Ready based on a creature moving or attacking, rather than based on "their turn".

But what about real (in-world) seconds or milliseconds? Can a character say "I Ready the attack action against this hostage, preparing to bring my axe down on them in three seconds"? What if they count out loud and ready their action to trigger when they say the word "three"? What about five and nine-tenths seconds? What do any of these situations mean as far as turn order goes?

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    \$\begingroup\$ What kind of goal are you hoping to accomplish by doing this? \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Apr 22, 2021 at 8:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ 3 seconds cannot mean half a turn, or half a round, they are discreet. Are you trying to subdivide a turn? Are you trying to subdivide a round? Why? \$\endgroup\$
    – StuperUser
    Apr 22, 2021 at 18:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ Addendum to the second situation in the above message: determining whether the Eldritch Knight can do that without needing to know "who goes before me in the initiative order" \$\endgroup\$
    – 47948201
    Apr 22, 2021 at 19:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @47948201 well, the only real requirement for a trigger is that it is perceivable. For example, "as soon as any one of those guys makes a step, I blast him". But remember that Ready is an action - you cast the spell on your turn (spending an action), and then release it as reaction. So no third fireball there. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 23, 2021 at 4:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DanilaSmirnov: I assume the idea is to ready a fireball on one turn, to be cast right before your next turn (but that itself apparently isn't a legal trigger, so you need some proxy I guess, but presumably it would be a loophole if you could just use time reliably for that). Then on that turn, Action Surge for 2 more fireballs. So you get 3 off before anyone can react to the fact that AoE damage is incoming, if the enemy forces didn't realize that was a threat when positioning. Or to line it up with a turn when friendlies have left room for you to avoid catching them in the blasts. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 23, 2021 at 5:42

1 Answer 1


The rules lack the granularity required to definitively adjudicate such a trigger.

Time is weird in combat. A whole round is six seconds, but your turn is also six seconds, but five turns in a round is 5 times 6 equals 6. The idea is that while we go in initiative order, there is some sense in which narratively, all the turns in a round are happening at the same time.

So for a reaction trigger to be ready “3 seconds from now”, it would be entirely consistent with the rules for that to be on your turn, or any turn after your turn during the same round, because the rules don’t tell us how to handle time like that.

If I’m the DM, I’m just going to ask you to choose another trigger, because I want to be able to say exactly when you may take your reaction.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for teaching me a new word! In case anyone else wanted to look up "adjudicate" right after seeing the word: en.wiktionary.org/wiki/adjudicate \$\endgroup\$
    – d33tah
    Apr 23, 2021 at 9:48

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