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I saw someone's post about readying spells to cast them as a reaction. Can you have several triggers for this?

Example: "I ready a casting of magic missile to fire on the goblin hidden behind the wall when they come out of cover, or right before my next turn on another goblin."

If yes, then how far can this go? Can you say that you will cast your spell right before you take damage, to mitigate the chance of losing the spell with the con save?

Either way readied actions are situational at best, and as a caster, you're better off concentrating on a spell than holding an action in most cases. It might be better for a rogue if this is legal RAW, though.

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2 Answers 2

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This won't work

Rules as written there is one "circumstance" and one "trigger":

First, you decide what perceivable circumstance will trigger your reaction. Then, you choose the action you will take in response to that trigger

You choose a circumstance and describe it to the DM. The description itself is not limited by the rules though, so it can be as broad as you want, as long as the DM understands and accepts it. So things like "I do this if X or Y happens" are probably valid.

However, triggers like "before my next turn" or "before you take damage" are not valid:

  1. The circumstance must be perceivable in the game world. A turn is not such a thing, it's a part of game mechanics. The same with "taking damage", if we talk specifically about substracting HPs — your character can react to something in the world, not to the dice rolled at your table.
  2. You can't do anything "before X". A trigger occurs just after the described circumstance, not before it:

When the trigger occurs, you can either take your reaction right after the trigger finishes or ignore the trigger

See Can I specify the timing "before ..." for my ready action?

and 3. You can't "ready a casting". Spells have specific rules for readying:

When you ready a spell, you cast it as normal but hold its energy, which you release with your reaction when the trigger occurs.

So firstly you cast a spell and expend a spell slot, then you wait, then you release its effect.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The "taking damage" thing . . . a lenient DM might let you get away with "if the goblin starts to attack me" or something similar . . . not sure if that's worth adding. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Commented May 24 at 11:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jack as far as I understand, the OP wanted specifically to do an action after con save was made, but before the damage was substracted from HPs. \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Commented May 24 at 12:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ On the other hand, "if the goblin starts to attack me" sounds perfectly fine to me. \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Commented May 24 at 13:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor I meant before the save, as there would be no reason to make a con save to keep the prepared spell if you didn't take damage first. Also in conclusion from comments, wording is key more than restrictions. It would be better to say "I hold my action until I can clearly see my enemy", and then focusing on the hidden enemy unless they don't go out of hiding. Then you could control the condition, essentially achieving the same thing as if you could have several conditions. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gyletre
    Commented May 24 at 13:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Gyletre you still have do describe the action, aside with the condition. \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Commented May 24 at 14:55
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You can't, but you don't really need to here

There are a couple problems with your example trigger:

Example: "I ready a casting of magic missile to fire on the goblin hidden behind the wall when they come out of cover, or right before my next turn on another goblin."

Namely, a) you reference "your turn" and b) you have 2 triggers when you only need 1.

Per the PHB, a readied action (spells included), requires a "perceivable circurmstance":

First, you decide what perceivable circumstance will trigger your reaction.

Meta circumstances, such as ends of turns, are not "perceivable". The trigger must be something your player character can see, hear, smell, or feel. Furthermore, it must be a single thing. It's a circumstance, not circumstances.

However, the good news is that you don't need multiple triggers for this scenario. That's because of the following from the PHB:

When the trigger occurs, you can either take your reaction right after the trigger finishes or ignore the trigger.

If you specify a more generic trigger, such as simply "when a goblin moves", you can pass on taking this trigger on other goblins thqt move before the goblin behind cover. If he does pop his head out, you can hit him with magic missile. If he doesn't, you can just take it out on the next goblin to move.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The meta-idea is that if the goblin behind cover doesn't move, the player doesn't want to waste the readied spell (which dissipates without effect at the start of their next turn - this is because Ready only allows the reaction to release before your next turn), and cast it to another valid target. So the generic trigger doesn't solve this issue, since if no goblin moves (maybe they just attacks, and doesn't move; wording! 😉 or no goblin turn after the goblin-behind-cover) after the goblin-behind-cover's turn, the spell slot spent is wasted. \$\endgroup\$
    – justhalf
    Commented May 25 at 5:00

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