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Say you want to play keep away with the Campaign's McGuffin, throwing it to a friendly creature, preventing the BBEG from taking it. Or you want to hurl something in frustration out to sea.

Are these free object interactions, or are must they be considered 'non-free' actions?

This pocket sand question implies the transition to being an attack or Action is because it involves an opponent. Only one of my examples involves another creature, so I don't think the general case is covered.

What are these considered?

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2 Answers 2

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There's a lot of room for DM discretion, and such DM discretion is explicitly called out in the rules.

Other Activity on Your Turn:

The DM might require you to use an action for any of these activities when it needs special care or when it presents an unusual obstacle.

Improvising an Action:

When you describe an action not detailed elsewhere in the rules, the DM tells you whether that action is possible and what kind of roll you need to make, if any, to determine success or failure.

Since the specific object interactions a character could potentially want to accomplish are limitless, they can't all be covered by rules. Some guidelines for a DM might include how much time the action takes, how difficult it is, whether failure is even possible, and whether failure matters. That is, if there is no penalty for failure, just let the character succeed.

This is probably best illustrated by looking at the two examples you offer.

Throwing an object to a friendly creature, preventing the BBEG from taking it

In this case, failure seems possible, in that you could throw it poorly so that your ally can't possibly catch it. If your ally is right next to you, "hand an item to another character" is specifically called out as a free interaction. If the BBEG is on the other side of the room and your ally is within a reasonable distance (10 feet? 20 feet?), maybe you can toss the object casually and still attack or take another action. But if you are within reach of the BBEG, it becomes reasonable to say that you must focus your attention on the action of throwing the object while defending yourself from possible attack.

Furthermore, the action could require an Athletics check or an attack roll. It would probably also use the Reaction of your ally to catch it.

You might implement this differently. I don't see any rules that specifically cover this case.

You want to hurl something in frustration out to sea

This seems like a free object interaction. If it's OK to throw wildly, it doesn't require aim or focus. Specific circumstances might change this, like if you have to throw it some minimum distance, i.e. if throwing it out to sea means throwing it over the edge of a cliff which is 60 feet away. BTW, I would definitely model this as an Athletics check rather than an attack roll.

But, again, I don't see any rules that specifically cover this case.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Agreed with this: it's the aiming (including how hard to throw it) that takes time, effort, and attention. Flinging wildly is easy, if you don't care about it going super far, just 15+ feet (or maybe farther depending on weight, str, and aerodynamics) somewhere in a 45 degree arc maybe. Just a quick arm motion. Throwing far would involve footwork and your whole body (e.g. watch a baseball outfielder take a crow-hop and power a throw with their hips and shoulder rotation, and full arm.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 18, 2021 at 1:28
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I would rule that these requires actions, but it's ultimately up to the GM

The rules on Interacting With Objects Around You include some general rules on objects interactions and a list of example object interactions, including the following:

The DM might require you to use an action for any of these activities when it needs special care or when it presents an unusual obstacle. For instance, the DM could reasonably expect you to use an action to open a stuck door or turn a crank to lower a drawbridge.

pick up a dropped axe
take a bauble from a table
kick a small stone
hand an item to another character

I would personally say that tossing an item to a specific location requires considerably more effort than handing something off; thus, at my own tables, I would rule that tossing to an ally requires an action.

I would personally say that throwing something into the ocean requires considerably more effort than kicking a small stone; thus, at my own tables, I would rule that tossing into the ocean requires an action.

Of course, GM's can rule however they would like on these things and it's ultimately your own GM who has the answer to the otherwise unanswered questions such as this.

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