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Can you deattune to an item and attune to a new item in the same short rest? So if my character already has 3 attuned items, can they swap out one of these items with another magical item in a single short rest? Or does it require two short rests (one to deattune and one to attune)?

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This would require two short rests.

From Magic Items (emphasis mine):

Attuning to an item requires a creature to spend a short rest focused on only that item while being in physical contact with it (this can't be the same short rest used to learn the item's properties). This focus can take the form of weapon practice (for a weapon), meditation (for a wondrous item), or some other appropriate activity. If the short rest is interrupted, the attunement attempt fails. Otherwise, at the end of the short rest, the creature gains an intuitive understanding of how to activate any magical properties of the item, including any necessary command words.

Any attempt to attune to a fourth item fails; the creature must end its attunement to an item first.

A creature's attunement to an item ends if the creature no longer satisfies the prerequisites for attunement, if the item has been more than 100 feet away for at least 24 hours, if the creature dies, or if another creature attunes to the item. A creature can also voluntarily end attunement by spending another short rest focused on the item, unless the item is cursed.

Attuning and de-attuning both require a short rest, and you explicitly cannot do anything else during a short rest while attuning. The alternative de-attuning options are either impractical (losing the prerequisite) or slower than taking a short rest (staying 100' away for 24 hours) other than dying. One option would be dying and having Revivify cast on you, but that's kind of expensive and it sets a problematic precedent (personally I wouldn't run death-and-Revivify as de-attuning items, since that gets ugly in combat).

In general, swapping out an attuned item requires two short rests.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ So that is how it seems RAW, but here's the issue with that. It seems like RAW, in order to switch attunements, you have to walk around for half a day with only 2 magic items. Also by RAW, it seems like you can't attune to items during a long rest, since long rests are not short rests. Is this actually rules as intended? Do you have to cripple yourself for a day or more (depending on if your DM even allows short rests) just to switch magic items? \$\endgroup\$ May 25, 2023 at 21:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ Nothing in the rules would prevent you from spending two hours on back-to-back short rests to de-attune and re-attune. Similarly, you could take an extra-long rest by just tacking on some short rests on either side, or a DM could just rule it's an option during your 2 hours of light activity during a long rest. I'd be surprised if any DM disallowed short rests (barring things like the gritty realism variant), especially for this purpose, but that will depend on your DM. \$\endgroup\$
    – Shivers
    May 25, 2023 at 21:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomDeleon It's intentional that you can't rapidly swap out attuned items, that's the whole point of attunement taking an extended time. It's making a relatively long term decision about what items you want. \$\endgroup\$ May 25, 2023 at 22:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ How would that be an exploit? You're doing twice as much and it takes twice as long. You're not expected to "fight with 2 magic items for a whole day"; you need to make a tradeoff between spending a longer chunk of time to rotate items out (because it's supposed to be non-trivial, as @DarthPseudonym said) or breaking it up. \$\endgroup\$
    – Shivers
    May 25, 2023 at 22:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Keep in mind, this is RAW as opposed to rule 0. You DM can rule that you can swap out all of your attuned items in a single rest if they wish. I'd expect most would. \$\endgroup\$ May 26, 2023 at 2:17

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