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So our party has a dragon banished. Our plan is to drop the banishment spell right after the dragon's turn in initiative. Can the whole party get a whole round of readied attacks and/or advantage and then our normal attacks in initiative order before the dragon gets to go even once?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ While not important to the "can I/can't I" of the question, it is useful to remind players that "Readied" Actions are not the same as "Attack", "Cast a Spell", and "Help" Actions. In other words, when a feature states, "When the character uses the N Action...," they are not available for the first round after the dragon reappears. For instance, characters don't get their extra attacks, nor can they use two-weapon fighting. \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Jan 11, 2023 at 21:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MivaScott A readied attack action is an attack action. The reason you can't use Extra Attack with it is because Extra Attack says you can't, and the reason you can't use TWF is because it requires a bonus action. Neither limitation has anything to do with the action having been readied (except that the ready action is what allows them to happen on another creature's turn). The case for other readied actions is similar, with the exception of spells. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 12, 2023 at 15:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RyanC.Thompson Indeed, if you used Ready and the trigger occurred on your turn, you could use your reaction to take the Attack action, which would allow you to use Extra Attack. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 13, 2023 at 15:46

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You should ask your DM if they are okay with implementing strategies that require metagame thinking.

Tell me in character how you intend to accomplish this.

This is a phrase I often use as DM when I suspect my players are engaging in metagaming. By "metagaming", I mean something like "using knowledge from outside the fiction of the game to gain some advantage they would not be able to using only in-game knowledge." This seems to be what the party is doing. You are attempting to take advantage of the rules for the initiative order to gain a tactical advantage against the dragon. The problem with this is, of course, that the characters have no knowledge of turns, initiative, or rules at all. So as a DM, for this to work, I need to know how the characters are going to pull this off without taking advantage of the game rules, instead utilizing only what information is available to them in the fiction of the game.

Now, it must be observed that this idea has precedent in the rules:

Metagame thinking means thinking about the game as a game. It’s like when a character in a movie knows it’s a movie and acts accordingly. For example, a player might say, “The DM wouldn’t throw such a powerful monster at us!” or you might hear, “The read-aloud text spent a lot of time describing that door — let’s search it again!”

Discourage metagame thinking by giving players a gentle reminder: “What do your characters think?” You can curb metagame thinking by setting up situations that will be difficult for the characters and that might require negotiation or retreat to survive.

-Dungeon Master's Guide, chapter 8, "Table Rules"

So while it may seem clear when reading the combat rules in a vacuum that your strategy works, the fact that it only works because the players are engaging in metagame thinking means allowing this strategy to work is something that is quite plainly discouraged by the official guidance given to Dungeon Masters here in the Dungeon Master's Guide. So I don't think "yes this works" or "no this doesn't work" type answers are sufficiently nuanced for this question. A concise, but nuanced answer would be:

  • While the combat rules technically permit this sort of strategy, it is only possible to arrive at this strategy via metagame thinking, something that the official guidance for Dungeon Masters quite plainly discourages.

So it comes down to whether or not your DM is okay with your strategy, or if they would prefer to follow the DMG guidance and not allow this strategy to work (unless, of course, you can come up with a compelling in-character method that makes it work without relying on metagame knowledge).

So if we avoid metagame thinking, what happens?

As mentioned above, I like to ask my players:

Tell me in character how you intend to accomplish this.

Applying this to your particular situation, the only character who is engaging in the required metagame thinking is the caster of banishment: they intend to end their concentration at a very specific point in the initiative order. So as a DM, I am going to focus on what they are doing when working out how their strategy plays out. To be clear, we are well outside of "rules" territory, and well into "rulings" territory at this point. As I said, reading the combat rules in a vacuum allows this. So the DM needs to ask the caster when in character they are going to drop concentration. And when I've run into this as a DM, I give them two choices:

  • On your turn, at any time you want
  • Using the Ready action on your turn, in response to a perceptible trigger, at the cost of your reaction, on someone else's turn, defined entirely in terms of character knowledge, with entirely in-character justification for the choices made.

The last bit of this second bullet is important, I have had players in exactly this situation so very conveniently say "I drop concentration when Pete says 'Now!'" when Pete's turn was in precisely the desired position in initiative order.

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Yes, this (nearly) works

Everyone in your party can ready their action to attack when the trigger occurs, so if all have the trigger “the creature returns”, all do. This does not create a new round, but it means you all get to attack before the banished creature in the turn it returns, as a reaction.

You can end concentration at any time1, so you can do it after the dragon's turn in initiative order. This means you then will all get a full round of actions before it gets to act again (unless it is old enough to have legendary actions — then it can use those each time one of you took a turn).

However, the character whose turn is up right after the dragon will only get either their normal attack, or a Ready action. This is because when you Ready an action, you can only take the reaction in the same round you readied it:

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 so that you can act later in the round using your reaction.

Once a new round begins with their turn they cannot take their old reaction anymore. And you have to wait until it is their turn, or it would still be the dragon’s turn, who after suffering all your readied actions would be free to act. There is no point "between turns" where you could drop concentration — it is the dragon's turn, or the next character's. So either they ready a new reaction with their Action in their new turn and then use it directly, or they just use their action normally to attack (which is often better, as you get to make a full attack).

The dragon itself cannot ready an action to do something when it returns, because it is incapacitated while banished, so it cannot take actions, which means also no Ready action.

Keep in mind that if you want to use a spell attack as your own readied action, this will not work, as Readying a spell requires your concentration and would end your banishment prematurely.


1 One question is if you can wait for a combatant's turn in game to do something. The rule text for ending concentration is

You can end concentration at any time (no action required).

While the majority view is that you can do this in another's turn, it is not unequivocal, so it is safest to get a ruling on this from your DM.

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    \$\begingroup\$ So by RAW, I should have my barbarian keep pulling rats out of their bag-of-rats, until there is a rat whose turn occurs right after the dragon's? That way we can all have our reactions trigger on the rat's turn instead of the beginning of a party member's turn \$\endgroup\$
    – Kyyshak
    Jan 11, 2023 at 7:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Kyyshak Maybe — I think that could work, but I'd need to think about/check references on it. Adding new combatants to an ongoing fight has enough complexity to be its own separate question. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 11, 2023 at 7:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Kyyshak Are you sure your DM is okay with the “bag of rats” strategy? Every DM I’ve ever played with was aware of the “bag of rats” meme, but none of them actually viewed it as a viable technique. In terms of the narrative, my experience is that it is typically viewed as nonsense that arises from metagaming the rules instead of roleplaying. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 11, 2023 at 11:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ "Full round of actions, before it gets to act again (unless it is old enough to have legendary actions — then it can use those each time one of you took a turn)" Actually, legendary actions happen at the end of a players turn, readied action are a reaction -- so the dragon couldn't take legendary actions after the players reactions. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 11, 2023 at 16:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ Agreed that you can end concentration "at any time". But I would like to see more about how the caster knows it is "right after the dragon's turn". This is not a reaction, with the specification that it must be taken in response to a perceivable circumstance. And yet the caster must be electing the time to stop concentrating based on some criterion, and I'm not sure that they can tell when it is the dragon's turn \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Jan 11, 2023 at 16:47

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