Alberich the Absent-minded is moving towards the evil lich Xanax to put a leather bag over its head. Xanax' skeleton minion attacks him in passing with an opportunity attack. Alberich has not used his action yet. He stops his movement to cast a quick mage armor on himself, which he forgot to do in the morning.

It is not only about opportunity attacks. Other triggers would be possible, for example:

Alberich is moving away from Xanax as a 10-foot pit opens beneath his feet. He has not used his action yet, and defly casts dimension door to get away before dropping into the pit trap.

Would this be possible? If not, why not?

(The question is not about being able to take the Ready action that allows you to take a premeditated Action in response to a trigger. It is clear that you can do that. It is about spontaneously deciding to take the Action.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ When I told my doctor I get nervous on airplanes, I did not intend for him to prescribe me a lich as a chaperone. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 16, 2022 at 19:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ I may be missing something, but this seems to be a very meandering way of asking "If I trigger an opportunity attack, can I immediately use my action to cast Mage Armor and prevent that attack?" \$\endgroup\$
    – Raj
    Mar 18, 2022 at 11:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ This scenario can be answered within reading the first few lines without much ambiguity or interpretation required. About 90% of the text of the question is irrelevant regarding using actions during reactions. The question being asked in the body is "Can I take an action during an enemy reaction" or "What prevents me from taking an action here" rather than the title of the entirety to "when can actions be used" \$\endgroup\$ Mar 21, 2022 at 13:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ This question is interesting and the answers just raise more questions! \$\endgroup\$
    – user73918
    Mar 24, 2022 at 5:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ Related question that caused this question \$\endgroup\$ Mar 30, 2022 at 16:04

4 Answers 4


You cannot take an action while a reaction is resolving, as defined within the "Reactions" definition (PHB.190).

All we need is the first paragraph. (Emphasis mine)

Xanax' skeleton minion attacks him in passing with an opportunity attack.

An opportunity attack is a reaction of the skeleton, described in the PHB.190 the pertinent line regarding reactions:

If the reaction interrupts another creature's turn, that creature can continue its turn right after the reaction.

(While can is not a must, it implies a cannot prior to the condition being met)

Actions can only be performed during your own turn, reactions can occur any time they are triggered, but specific beats general allowing some reactions to interrupt your turn.

So you cannot continue your turn to take an action until after the reaction is finished. The exception being to use your own reaction to react so long as you have one to use that has been triggered.

Simple solution to this scenario, remember to cast mage armor shortly after heading out for the adventuring day. Otherwise, if Shield is prepared, that is a reaction spell that could be used.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I think it's somewhat of a logical leap from "after the reaction the creature can continue its turn" to "that means you can't interrupt the reaction with your action" - I mean you even point out that you COULD interrupt the reaction with your own reaction. Your interpretation of the word "can" and its implications is doing a LOT of heavy lifting in your argument. If the rules says "that creature continues its turn right after the reaction" then I think your argument would be so much stronger, unfortunately they don't' say that. \$\endgroup\$
    – user73918
    Mar 22, 2022 at 6:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ I strongly disagree. There is no logical leap here, the word choice was specific and pulled directly from the PHB. "can" here is giving the option to stop or continue your turn after being interrupted, regardless of your choice, it occurs AFTER the reaction. Your second point suggesting that reactions cannot interrupt other reactions is just plain wrong. Interrupting reactions is 100% a function of some reactions in the case of counter-spell chains, in any case, the reaction will define when it triggers. Shield is listed as an example. Please support your assertion that these are not the case. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 22, 2022 at 14:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree that reactions can interrupt reactions, but I think you don't do justice to this contradiction of the assertion that you cannot do things during a reaction. If you assert that you can't take "your turn" during a reaction, you should explain why reactions are an exception to this. The logical leap is from "when the reaction is done you continue your turn" to "you can't do anything during a reaction". There's some kind of step missing in between - why can't you take an action during the reaction then later continue your turn? It's not explained. \$\endgroup\$
    – user73918
    Mar 23, 2022 at 2:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ "If the reaction interrupts another creature's turn, that creature can continue its turn right after the reaction." Emphasis mine. Notice that it states specifically, that the option to continue one's turn occurs "right after the reaction." Were there an option to continue one's turn (to take an action) during or before the reaction, it would be stated. We see though, that it is Not. Actions can only be performed during your own turn, reactions can occur any time they are triggered. "You can use it right after I'm done using it" is to say, You can't use it until then \$\endgroup\$ Mar 23, 2022 at 16:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ So if I understand correctly, your argument is that during a reaction it's not "your turn" anymore? If so could you please spell this out in the answer and discuss any potential ramifications of this ruling (one example would be a rogue using their reaction to interrupt a reaction to deal sneak attack damage despite having already used sneak attack damage on their turn)? \$\endgroup\$
    – user73918
    Mar 24, 2022 at 0:19

You cannot take an Action while moving or taking another Action

The last rule you quote is quite clear about that: “You can break up your movement on your turn, using some of your speed before and after your action.”

Alberich is moving when subjected to the opportunity attack (because that is what triggered the skeleton’s reaction), therefore, he cannot take an action until he finishes moving which will be after the skeleton’s reaction is resolved.

More generally, since reactions are “instant”, they must be fully resolved before any further movement or actions by the character whose turn it is.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree, but since movement can specifically be 'broken up', I think you could state 'he cannot take an action until he finishes moving' a little more clearly. That is, it is possible to move, act, and then move more - so why would that not work in the case the OP presents? \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Mar 16, 2022 at 22:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ What rule are you talking about and what part of it do you think specifically disallows this? \$\endgroup\$
    – user73918
    Mar 17, 2022 at 2:22

To answer your question directly, your action is your turn.

As you pointed out, in the Basic Rules, it says:

On your turn, you can move a distance up to your speed and take one action. You decide whether to move first or take your action first. Your speed--sometimes called your walking speed--is noted on your character sheet.

The most common actions you can take are described in the Actions in Combat section. Many class features and other abilities provide additional options for your action.

The list of Actions in Combat: Attack, Cast a spell, Dash, Disengage, Dodge, Help, Hide, Ready, Search, and Use an object. It does mention class features and abilities can give a character more choices, but for that, you would need to find something specific to a class.

The paragraph also says, "most common". This is because it is not an inclusive list. There will be actions a character can take that don't fall into one of the listed headings. An example is talking. It does not appear on the list, but it is definitely something a character can do. It's up to the DM to decide if it requires a full action or can be part of something else.

Reaction is the term for reacting to a trigger. However, it does not appear on the list of possibilities of an Action.

Certain special abilities, spells, and situations allow you to take a special action called a reaction. A reaction is an instant response to a trigger of some kind, which can occur on your turn or on someone else's. The opportunity attack, described later in this section, is the most common type of reaction.

Reactions only happen due to special abilities, spells, and situation. Since it is a named course of action (lower case), like Bonus Action, I would consider it not available during an Action.

There is an in-between

You can Ready an Action (appears on the list):

Sometimes you want to get the jump on a foe or wait for a particular circumstance before you act. To do so, you can take the Ready action on your turn, which lets you act using your reaction before the start of your next turn.

You use your Action to prepare for a trigger and use a Reaction. But that becomes your Action.

But Readying has its own problems. You have to declare what the trigger is and what you will do in response to that trigger before hand.

So Alberich could have said something like, "I'm going to walk towards Xanax, but if any of its minions start to attack me, I'll cast mage armor."

Now we have another problem. If your readied Action is casting a spell, you have to cast it as your Action. Then hold it, as if it was a Concentration spell, until the trigger happens.

When you ready a spell, you cast it as normal but hold its energy, which you release with your reaction when the trigger occurs. To be readied, a spell must have a casting time of 1 action, and holding onto the spell's magic requires concentration.

So in your scenario, Alberich has to have cast the mage armor spell to begin with. More over, if the trigger does not occur, the spell energy is not released so they have wasted the spell.

But Alberich shouldn't feel bad. Melee classes lose out when they use the Ready Action. Since the Attack Action doesn't happen on their turn, as pointed out in this question, where the character would normally get multiple attacks, their Readied Attack Action is reduced to a single attack (similar to an Attack of Opportunity).

All in all, Alberich is going to get hit. And if they survive, maybe they'll make a checklist.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't feel like it's a strong argument to say "reactions can do this therefore actions can't". You say "Actions are based on the player's choices." so why can't the player choose to take an action during a move or during a bonus action or during an opponent's reaction? Why can't that be the player's choice? The argument seems super shaky here, even if I think your conclusion is ultimately correct. \$\endgroup\$
    – user73918
    Mar 17, 2022 at 2:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Non-humanPerson, I agree. It required a bit of inferring. I rewrote the beginning on a more stable premise. \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Mar 17, 2022 at 4:42

The answer is easy, but complex. It depends

If the player announced that he moves to put the bag over his head, he would be using his action to 'Use an Item'. (basis of combat section 5e PHB) If he said he was moving to the lich, but never said why, and was already holding the bag, then it could be seen that he has not used his action.

HOWEVER. He can still have his reaction, as you get one reaction per combat cycle (from the beginning of your turn to the beginning of your next turn)

I hoped this helped

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    \$\begingroup\$ Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center. \$\endgroup\$
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    Mar 17, 2022 at 19:23

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