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The rules for legendary actions state:

A legendary creature can take a certain number of special actions — called legendary actions — outside its turn. Only one legendary action option can be used at a time and only at the end of another creature’s turn.

This since-deleted answer assumed that legendary actions happen outside of all turns. That is, between one turn and the next.

However, I believe that a more natural reading of “at the end of another creature’s turn” is that this occurs within that turn after the other creature has done everything they want to do. Otherwise, Elton John’s Club at the End of the Street can’t actually be accessed from the street and that makes it a very difficult place for a rendezvous.

Which is it?

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    \$\begingroup\$ This question might be awkward when I edit my answer over there. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 5:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Another way to formulate this : is there ever an "in-between turns" or an "outside turns"? It seems difficult to imagine an in-between for real time (rounds, for instance, which last 6 seconds) but turns being an abstract concept, it isn't as simple. \$\endgroup\$
    – Matthieu
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 7:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Matthieu there is an inherent difficulty in thinking about time units because we use the same word (second, hour, turn, year) to mean different things - time can be an instant, an interval between two instants or a duration. This is especially problematic in computer systems - modern computer language make a distinction between a second used as an instant and one used as a duration but older language treated them the same. The end of a turn must be, in some way, the start of the next term since there is no duration between them but they must also be different. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 10:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ Not sure why this matters. What problem is to be solved here? In a turn based game you transition from one turn to the next; and you can fit stuff between turns if need be, like the Legendary Action exception. However, I believe that a more natural reading of “at the end of another creature’s turn” is that this occurs within that turn after the other creature has done everything they want to do as do I and about every table I've played at. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 16:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Some effects only apply during the creature's turn. Some spells, for example Blade Ward, end at the end of one of the caster's turn. Those may be relevant in the resolution of the legendary action. \$\endgroup\$
    – DunBaloo
    Commented Jan 31, 2023 at 9:34

4 Answers 4

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Xanathar's Guide to Everything (p. 77) offers the following optional rule on simultaneous effects (emphasis mine):

Most effects in the game happen in succession, following an order set by the rules or the DM. In rare cases, effects can happen at the same time, especially at the start or end of a creature’s turn. If two or more things happen at the same time on a character or monster’s turn, the person at the game table — whether player or DM — who controls that creature decides the order in which those things happen. For example, if two effects occur at the end of a player character’s turn, the player decides which of the two effects happens first.

The implication is clear - things that happen at the start or end of a creature's turn are happening on that creature's turn.

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    \$\begingroup\$ To add to this, as far as I know, the only things that happen outside a creature's turn are things like lair actions that get their own initiative. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 13:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RyanC.Thompson Lairs, on Initiative Count 20, losing all ties, have their own turn, as it were. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 16:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast I think lair actions are generally described as actions taken by the owner of the lair, e.g. "On initiative count 20 (losing initiative ties), the dragon takes a lair action [...]". I'm not sure what that implies re: turns. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 17:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RyanC.Thompson Yes, but it doesn't count against the dragon's action economy, nor is it included when the dragon isn't there. We ran into this during play when we had found a beholder (Death Tyrant, so it's the upgraded one at CR 14) whose lair actions were happening long before we ever found him. For me, as a DM, I find it mentally easier to have the lair be treated as its own thing. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 19:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ Just watching the Raishan episode of Critical Role (Campaign 1, Ep. 80) last night and Matt declared that, while they were in a dragon's lair without the owner there, there were some environmental lair actions that he still felt should trigger on their own (magma bursts and such). That's generally how I treat environmental effects at my table (whether in a lair or not)...makes it easier to activate and track them. \$\endgroup\$
    – Purplemur
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 19:30
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Legendary Actions happen during another creature's turn

Per the description of legendary actions in the Monster Manual and Basic Rules:

Only one legendary action option can be used at a time and only at the end of another creature’s turn.

There is a bunch of precedence for the term "end of turn"

One need look no further than the cause fear spell:

You awaken the sense of mortality in one creature you can see within range. A construct or an undead is immune to this effect. The target must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or become frightened of you until the spell ends. The frightened target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success.

The "end of [...] its turn" simply means that is the last thing of a creatures turn.

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No: actions in combat happen only within turns

"The Order of Combat" creates the structure of turns.
The 'Combat step-by-step sidebar' describes the structure of a combat:

3. Roll initiative. Everyone involved in the combat encounter rolls initiative, determining the order of combatants' turns.
4. Take turns. Each participant in the battle takes a turn in initiative order.
5. Begin the next round. When everyone involved in the combat has had a turn, the round ends. Repeat step 4 until the fighting stops.

This establishes that all actions within combat take place on someone's turn. In particular, there is no mention in (4) of a time that happens 'between the turns' of combatants, or in (5) of a time after the end of the last combatant's turn but before the new round and the start of the first combatant's next turn.

It could be argued that the rules for legendary actions, as specific over general, themselves establish these inter-turn times. To evaluate this claim, we should consider whether such an understanding would improve or worsen game play.

Even the author of the original claim that legendary actions occur between turns said that this is a 'bug in the rules', and that it doesn't make sense that Multiattack Defense would not be able to trigger off Legendary Actions. But Multiattack Defense is not the only 'for the rest of the turn' effect. Note that while many effects last 'until the end of the turn', or occur 'at the end of the turn', a few others last 'for the rest of the turn.' If all time occurs within turns, all of these effects occur over the same time period. But if 'the end of the turn' is actually after the turn ends, then 'for the rest of the turn' effects, like Multiattack Defense, will end before 'the end of the turn' (that is, before the supposed between-turn period). Thus Legendary Actions will not only fail to interact sensibly with Multiattack Defense, but with any such effects. For example:

Fangs of the Fire Snake. When you use the Attack action on your turn, you can spend 1 ki point to cause tendrils of flame to stretch out from your fists and feet. Your reach with your unarmed strikes increases by 10 feet for that action, as well as the rest of the turn.

Suppose my monk used this ability on her turn, and then, at the end of her turn, a foe used a legendary action to leave her increased reach. She would not be able to respond with an opportunity attack because the movement at the end of her turn occurred after her turn.

Suppose my party's fighter, seeing the Legendary Foe slipping past my monk, tried to use his Sentinel Feat to stop it:

When you hit a creature with an opportunity attack, the creature’s speed becomes 0 for the rest of the turn.

If it was Legendary Movement, then it doesn't take place on a turn; rather it happens between turns, so the Feat would have no effect. Does your Rogue want to apply Sneak Attack bonus damage to their Opportunity Attack on the creature using Legendary Movement? They can't, because Sneak Attack can be used only once per turn and Legendary Actions don't take place on a turn...

Clearly this interpretation, that Legendary Actions take place between turns, creates complications with many other abilities and effects. I can't, however, think of anything that such an interpretation adds in compensation, no rules that become clearer as a result. This interpretation doesn't gain us anything.

What is the 'end of the turn' for?

What can you do on Your Turn?

On your turn, you can move a distance up to your speed and take one action... Various class features, spells, and other abilities let you take an additional action on your turn called a bonus action...Your turn can include a variety of flourishes that require neither your action nor your move.

The bulk, or body, of your turn is spent resolving actions and effects that you elected. It is your turn because the principle components are your decisions about what to do.

However, there are other portions of your turn - the beginning of your turn, and the end of your turn. At the beginning or start of your turn are effects that happen before you have a chance to decide anything - they happen to you rather than them being your choice. Things like environmental damage and death saves occur at the start of your turn because their results can dramatically affect the options you have available once you reach the part of your turn where you can elect your own actions.

The end of your turn (which is still your turn), is for everything that resolves once you are done making decisions. Once you have exhausted all of your possible options, you 'pass', and begin applying end-of-turn effects. These are typically things like saves against debilitating effects and the end of the duration on enhancements. They happen after the elective portion of your turn is over specifically so that you cannot respond to any state-changes with new actions. When you make your save against hold person, you can't declare that now you would like to use your movement. You can't, because it is already the end of your turn.

For a creature's Legendary Actions to occur at the end of your turn indicates that you cannot respond to them with any of your main actions - that part of your turn is over. But it is still your turn, and you (and others) can still respond to them on your turn with things like reactions or other abilities that specifically allow you to respond, and with all of the benefits that it still being your turn, or someone's turn, confer. This is as it should be.

If you instead remove Legendary Actions to a time between turns, you unnecessarily invent a time that disrupts these interactions for no gain other than coming down on one side of what is ultimately a debate about language.

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No

The rules say that legendary actions occur at the end of another creature’s turn. It does not say after another creature's turn. If said creature's turn had already ended it would no longer be at the end of that turn.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The contention in the comment of mine that inspired this question was that if the turn hasn’t ended, it isn’t the end of the turn yet. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 12:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov another interesting fact concerning this expression : "end of turn" is often used to designate the last part of a turn, within the turn itself, for instance in many turn-based card games. While this fact is not an answer for this specific question by itself, it is a context of that expression that is common enough to consider, when thinking about its meaning. \$\endgroup\$
    – Matthieu
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 13:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov: "At the end" != "After the end". At the end of the day, I go to bed. This does not state that I go to bed the next day (i.e. at precisely midnight when it goes from today to tomorrow). Human speech is not hyperdefined the way logic and mathematics are. \$\endgroup\$
    – Flater
    Commented Jan 31, 2023 at 5:12

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