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I think it's a common question but nonetheless. If the fighter falls down, can another character move to him, find a potion in his backpack and administer it to him in a single round?

I know that you have one free object interaction per round. But there is a section for unusual obstacles:

The GM might require you to use an Action for any of these activities when it needs Special care or when it presents an unusual obstacle.

And another person's backpack is not a simple place to find something.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Related: "Can a character grab a potion from a pack and drink it without using their action?" \$\endgroup\$ Jul 18, 2022 at 10:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't understand what's unclear in "The GM might require"? It's something specifically left for your DM to decide, the rule you obviously know says so. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Jul 18, 2022 at 10:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ I’m voting to close for “needs details”, though “opinion based” might work too. You’ve acknowledged that the rules don’t explicitly cover this, and you’ve acknowledged that there is a rule that covers this more generally, which is that it is up to the GM to decide. So as @Mołot said, it isn’t clear what the confusion is here. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 18, 2022 at 10:56

2 Answers 2

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Perhaps but it depends on your DM

We already know from the PHB that drinking or feeding a potion to someone requires an Action AND that you can retrieve a potion from your own backpack with a free interaction. So far, so good.

The problem is that it’s someone else’s backpack. Can the rules on free interaction extend to retrieving things from other people’s backpacks? You have found the rule for obstacles so in a sense you have answered your own question - it’s up to your DM, they might say “Sure, a backpack is a backpack” and allow it or they might say “No, you don’t know you way around your friend’s backpack well enough to be able to do it as free interaction, it’s a full Action”. Or they might call for a skill check handle it some other way.

For what it’s worth, I would allow you to do this IF the party member explicitly instructed you in advance: “Here’s my potion, I always keep it in this side pocket, if I’m ever knocked out, please administer it to me.” OR if the player made a convincing argument and there was evidence backing it up, for example “We’ve been travelling together for years, they always arrange stuff in the same way, I’ve seen him do it often enough to be able to find the potion quickly.”. Otherwise, no, going through an entire unfamiliar backpack to find what you’re looking for would require a full Action.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for your answer! In the end we decided to roll Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check. As "Let the dices decide". Btw it was fail, so fighter died = ( \$\endgroup\$
    – Iver Cold
    Jul 19, 2022 at 8:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Seems like a reasonable choice, too bad for the fighter it failed though \$\endgroup\$
    – AnnaAG
    Jul 19, 2022 at 8:21
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You can retrieve and drink the potion in one round, unless your DM rules otherwise

Page 196 PHB says about object interactions:

You can also interact with one object or feature of the environment for free, during either your move or your action. (...) If you want to interact with a second object, you need to use your action. Some magic items and other special objects always require an action to use, as stated in their descriptions.

The same page also has a table for Interacting with objects around you. It says:

Here are a few examples of the sorts of thing you can do in tandem with your movement and action

Any single one of these would cost you your "free" object interaction; if you wanted to do two of them, then you would need to use your action. There is an example relevant to your case:

  • withdraw a potion from your backpack

It is safe to assume that withdrawing an item from your own backpack is about as difficult as for someone else's. A backpack is a backpack. It may be slightly harder, as you do not know how they packed it, but it may also be slightly easier, as you do not have to grope around on your back but have it right in front of you. So getting the potion out of the backpack costs you an object interaction as stated.

The DMG says about potions of all kinds (including healing potions) on page 139:

Potions are consumable magic items. Drinking a po­tion or administering it to another character requires an action.

So, taken together, you can use your free object interaction to withdraw a potion from the characters' backpack, and then you can use your action to administer it. Both can be done in a single round.

Is this realistic?

Realistically, to get a potion from a backpack in 3-4 seconds so you still have time to administer it, it must have been put there in an accessible way to begin with, like being stuck in an outer pocket, although the rules do not differentiate that.

For what it's worth, if the potion is really inside the backpack, in our group we feel that all this is a bit too much to do within 6 seconds, based on our own real-life experience of how long it takes to dig something out of a closed backpack, undoing the latches etc. You would also need to unstopper the potion, which is likely either corked, sealed with wax or screwed tight, so the valuable liquid is not getting lost. And then you still need to administer it. It strains credibility to be able to run 30 feet and do all of that in one round.

So we rule that you taking something from your or another's backpack generally takes your full action, and you need to carry the potion more easily accessible at your belt or similar location to grab it with a free object interaction, following the guidance on p. 196 PHB

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.

But that is a DM ruling and house rule.

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    \$\begingroup\$ As far as realism, it really depends on how you store stuff. If you keep potions in a belt pouch or in a side-pouch of a backpack, that's a lot easier to reach than if you're like digging around to locate one small object in the main section of a 1-cubic-foot pack. I think we can assume that important emergency gear like potions would be kept in an accessible location. If you toss them into a bag of holding, then yeah, that'll be impossible to find and use in the same turn. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 18, 2022 at 13:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DarthPseudonym Yes, for realism, strapped to the outside or dangling from it or sitting in an open side pocket, like a water bottle, would work, inside with the straps closed won’t. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 18, 2022 at 14:15

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