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Under this video and in various groups, there is a debate about what happens after a character uses a readied action to step out of melee range. I did not find an official answer, so maybe you guys can help satisfy my curiosity.

I think it can be summarized to three possible outcomes:

  1. The attack misses and the attacker has a penalty on the next attack
  2. The action is wasted since there's no valid target, but the attacker has no penalty
  3. The action is not taken since there's no valid target and the attacker has no penalty

I don't know if any of these are the correct answer.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I wonder if the person who came up with this had played Exalted, because disrupting enemy multiattacks was such a fundamental part of the optimized combat metagame in its second edition, that my first impulse reading this was to think that this a question about that game instead, until I read the question tags. \$\endgroup\$
    – nick012000
    Oct 19 at 7:06
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Frame challenge: You cannot use the "start of an attack" as a valid trigger for Ready.

Ready in the Gamemastery Guide has this important line to aid in adjudicating valid triggers for Ready:

Notably, the trigger must be something that happens in the game world and is observable by the character rather than a rules concept that doesn’t exist in world

In order to reach this situation, you have to Step (or use some other movement) in response to an enemy starting to attack you, but that's only a definable point in game-logic. Take, for instance, this video on how to do a roundhouse kick. The first step is to, well, step. So does every step count at the start of a roundhouse kick? What if the person is just stepping into a more aggressive position? It's not actually clear when an attack starts, especially if one wants to differentiate between an attack and a feint.

It's further clear that we are already not reacting to game world events by the shear amount of meta-game confusion this stunt causes, as demonstrated by your question. Even the video you linked expresses a fair amount of uncertainty at whether this stunt actually works, shown by the many hedged statements and their repeated insistence at "needing to see what happens in the narrative".

Yes, this is technically in the realm of GM fiat, and perhaps your GM will declare it as a valid trigger. But at that point, you just do what the GM says, and there is no RAW (nor even RAI, I would argue) guidance left. Option 3 seems the only one that doesn't result in rampant abuse of this stunt, if that is the case, and what I would recommend as a (house) rule to any GM who wishes to allow the stunt.

Note: there are many reactions in the game which have mechanical triggers. Ready simply isn't allowed to use those, and must be described in non-game language.

Note 2: Nimble Dodge already fills the narrative space for this kind of action (dodging out of the way of an attack at the last minute). You may also be interested in Reactive Shield if you are looking for reactions of this nature.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think most of the time it's clear when a person is about to attack you, especially if they're not doing martial arts for show. Although I would definitely say the Reaction triggers on a successful Feint. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Oct 19 at 0:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Ifusaso Historical European Martial Arts (sword, dagger etc) teaches people not to telegraph an attack. And yes, there is a word for showing you are about to attack. Wushu – same. From what I heard it's all the same in every martial tradition, with exception of capoeira that telegraphs all the time no matter if it's an attack or not. It is not for show. Telegraphed attacks do not hit. So we don't do it. It is that simple. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Oct 19 at 7:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Ifusaso I think also that a D&D mechanics attack is not supposed to represent every potentially threatening movement of an opponent's weapon towards you that happens in the narrative, it's an abstraction that makes the ebb and flow of real fighting manageable as a turn-taking game. You normally get one "attack" per turn, which I conceptualise as one decent opening to strike on average in the amount of time represented by a turn. To get that opening there would be feints and blocks, changes of position, etc. How does a character know which movement is the start of a "real attack"? \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben
    Oct 19 at 20:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ Doesn't the existence of the linked Nimble Dodge counter this answer? The Trigger of "A creature targets you with an attack and you can see the attacker." shows that Triggers can be exactly like what they want to Ready for. \$\endgroup\$
    – brandon
    Oct 20 at 17:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @brandon - see my first note. Nimble Dodge uses an explicitly mechanical trigger, which Ready is forbidden from doing. \$\endgroup\$
    – ESCE
    Oct 20 at 17:50
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The Ready Activity allows you to perform a Reaction - this is important to know for parsing the correct rules because the Reaction is what interacts with the attacker's Strike.

The question becomes two-fold, relating to the Disrupting Actions rules.


  1. Does the Ready Action Step disrupt the attack?

This is startlingly uncovered by the Encounter rules. Nothing indicates what happens when a target stops being valid.

  • Spell Targets comes close, explaining that effects "fail to target" invalid creatures (with no definition of what that entails).
  • Range and Reach defines Reach but doesn't mention targets moving out of Reach

I am inclined to say that when a creature uses a Reaction to become an invalid target, the action was already started and is disrupted unless there is another valid target within Reach/Range (ruling that your Reaction prevents targeting you, not the entire Strike).

However, based on Move Actions that Trigger Reactions, I think it's unclear whether this is the ruling is even correct; applying the rules relating to Reacting to Move actions that don't Move you (such as Stand), the Reaction isn't resolved until after the effect. In such a case, you would Step after their first Strike, potentially preventing further attacks. I feel like that rule in more specific and not applicable to the situation above.


  1. If so, does MAP apply to disrupted attacks?

Disrupting Actions:

When an action is disrupted, you still use the actions or reactions you committed and you still expend any costs, but the action’s effects don’t occur.

Multiple Attack Penalty:

If you use an action with the attack trait more than once on the same turn, your attacks after the first take a penalty called a multiple attack penalty.

Yes, Multiple Attack Penalty is applied on disrupted attacks, such as those disrupted by a movement Reaction.

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