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Our caster worked out a strategy with the other party members. When we are overrun during combat, just before casting/releasing Hypnotic Pattern, he says the code phrase 'the sky is blue'. This signals everyone to close their eyes.

I think the caster can close his eyes (as he knows exactly when the pattern appears). See Can one close one's eyes when casting a Hypnotic pattern spell around oneself?

  • But can the other party members do this?
  • If so, does this require the other party members to use their reaction?
  • Is everyone who does this then 'blinded' until the beginning of their next turn?
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2 Answers 2

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The Ready Action is kinda your friend, but really your enemy

At a top level, what you're asking is for your PCsto be able to react to their caster when a code phrase is given. This is absolutely possible within the rules, but it's also going to create a big problem.

Because you can't actually do anything but use your reaction off-turn(minus specific spells and abilities), then you need to set up that reaction - and we do that with the Ready action. The issue here is that you can't just 'do' it, it needs to be planned the round before. And more problematic is that it takes up the action for those characters.

It's a bit squirrely in that closing your eyes isn't an action, so a DM could potentially allow a non-action based Ready, but that would also leave the PCs eyes closed until the start of their next turn because they can't both react to close and then to open (you gotta pick one!). However the above is entirely houserule territory and would need to be reviewed and approved by the table.

As a DM, I'd be wary about this, but the downsides of all blinded are pretty high so it may be a reasonable choice.

The case of averting eyes for the Medusa

The specific creature Medusa does allow creatures an opportunity to avert their eyes at the start of their turn (MM, 214)

Unless surprised, a creature can avert its eyes to avoid the saving throw at the start of it's turn.

This is a specific opportunity that the Medusa provides prior to the saving throw. Whether or not this particular activity becomes something available at all times will remain with the table and DM to determine.

And don't forget - if you can do this, so can the enemies. Is this a tactic you want used against you?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Are monster features like the medusa's petrifying gaze which have a clause about averting eyes relevant to mention/discuss? I think they're the only point where the act of closing/averting eyesight comes up in the rules but I'm not sure if it's directly applicable. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 16:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ I do feel like if the spell had a Dex save component, you could argue that covers the quickly closing your eyes tactic. Alas, it's wisdom. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 19:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Someone_Evil I don't think it is because that's an entirely different mechanic and that's an option on the turn of the character. This is an off-turn event that OP is trying and off-turn actions are pretty narrow. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 19:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's not actually the case that you can't do anything but use a reaction off-turn. For instance: "You can end concentration at any time (no action required)." So there's precedent for the possiblity of doing some things at any time without an action. (Arguably, the lack of facing rules suggests that turning your head and moving your eyes are also things you can do at any time without an action.) \$\endgroup\$
    – smorgan
    Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 21:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @smorgan This question covers a similar point. Your actions are on your turn unless something is specific that grants you the ability to do something off-turn. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 22:28
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They need a Reaction unless they close their eyes earlier

The DM may rule that your team has trained this enough so they can do it without needing a Reaction. Our DM did allow it. I just think you cannot point to rules as written for demanding it.

However there is nothing that stops the other party members from closing their eyes. Closing your eyes is so minor that it would be a free action, see PHB, p. 190:

Your turn can include a variety of flourishes that require neither your action nor your move. You can communicate however you are able, through brief utterances and gestures, as you take 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.

Closing your eyes certainly is a lot less involved than talking. A malicious DM might argue that if you do not take special care to keep your eyes closed in the fracas of fighting, then you might glimpse the pattern, so it needs an Action. I think that would be stretching it.

If other characters state that they close their eyes at the end of their turn (and those after you in the initiative order do so at the end of their turn in the round prior), then no Reaction would be required to do so, and they could open their eyes again at the start of their next turn, not losing any Actions.

They would however be blinded until they can open the eyes again on their next turn, and suffer the appropriate disadvantages.

I think it would be normal by RAW to demand a Reaction, if characters want to do anything that involves risk outside of their turn. So if they wanted to wait for you to finish your casting and then open their eyes, or wait until you start and then briefly close them while the illusion flashes up, the DM would be in his rights to require a Readied Action for that. This of course would preclude them from doing too much other useful things that turn.

So: either they suffer the blinded condition, or they forgo their Action for a Reaction.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Is this kind of a frame challenge in that you're suggesting the players close their eyes at the end of their turn and not on the trigger word? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 15:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes - I think his goal is to be able to cast HP without affecting the rest of the team much. We had the same situation. And you can do it with a Readied Action, or you can do it by just closing your eyes for a turn instead. If you have a lenient DM you can also do what he describes, but I think not RAW \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 15:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you have a lenient DM, you can do anything :P But I do like the frame challenge of closing eyes by choice at end of turn - but that comes with it's own big blinding problems (and for longer!) \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 15:25

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