This came up today at our gaming session. I was sustaining a Wall of Fire with my minor actions. The enemy was out of sight and I readied an action to Thunderwave them into the Wall of Fire if they appeared between the wall and myself. My DM ruled that, if the readied action went off, I would be unable to sustain the Wall of Fire.

Her rationale went like this:

  • You are sustaining the power on your turn at your initiative count
  • If your readied action goes off, your initiative count changes to a later moment in the round.
  • Therefore, the turn following your readied action going off, on your original initiative count, the power would need to be sustained, but couldn't be until the new initiative count. By the time your new initiative came up, it would be too late.

Her main argument was that I would be getting it sustained for free for part of a round between my old initiative count and the new one. Potentially, it could encompass an entire round (If I was first in the initiative count and become last in the order after triggering my action.)

It never actually came up because the conditions of the readied action were never met.

My argument is that I'm giving up time in the round where I have to wait to act and that that counters any extra time that it is sustained. I didn't find anything in the PHB that covered this scenario specifically, which made me think that my reading of the rules was more correct. Sustaining happens on your turn. Using a readied action moves your turn later in the round, but you still have the chance to spend those actions on your turn.

If I'm right, we'll probably wind up calling her ruling a house rule and I'd be fine with that.

Note: Delayed actions are different and are specifically covered on p288 of the PHB: "At the moment you delay, ... sustainable effects end.


2 Answers 2


Your DM is wrong in your specific case. I'm not sure whether you're saying delaying doesn't end a sustain -- it does -- so I'll cover readying first, then sustaining.

Readying is covered on page 247 of the Rules Compendium and page 291 of the Player's Handbook. Your reading is correct. You would have to sustain before you spent your standard action to ready, but on the next round your initiative would move as per your understanding, and you'd sustain at the normal time. This is in fact "free" sustaining; however, it's enough of a fringe case so that it's never bugged me. On the other hand, I can see it as a house rule. As a GM, I'd just ask people not to be abusive if they started metagaming around it, though.

Delaying is covered on page 242 of the Rules Compendium and on page 288 of the Player's Handbook. When your initiative comes around, your start of turn effects happen no matter what, even if you delay. Your end of turn effects are split into two parts. Any beneficial effects end immediately when you delay, and anything you were sustaining ends immediately. So yeah, your turn is moved later in the round -- but you still lose your sustains, and you don't get that free sustain for a portion of the round.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ btw, the Rules Compendium is 100% relevant and applicable to any 4e game you're playing -- it's a great resource whether you're doing Essentials or a game built around the original three books only. \$\endgroup\$
    – Bryant
    Commented Sep 20, 2010 at 1:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks! wow, the text on delay is very specific, guess I glossed over that on the first read. I removed the references to 'delay' and 'delayed' in the question. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – yhw42
    Commented Sep 20, 2010 at 4:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ I was very surprised to find it in the PHB 1; I hadn't actually realized what the rule was until it came up in one of my games three weeks ago. \$\endgroup\$
    – Bryant
    Commented Sep 20, 2010 at 14:47

Bryant made a super-helpful explanation to a question asked almost 2 years prior to the time I am currently reading it, so I'm not sure if the OP will ever read this response. But for all you future people, there are a few other important points to be made, based on the rules in the compendium (DnD insiders) as of this posting date:

The rules on readying an action require a very specific mention of when the readied action triggers, and you do not get to make your readied action until the specified trigger occurs (and only if you decide to do so). You are at the mercy of the trigger occuring. This is in distinct contrast to when you choose to delay a FULL turn, where you can re-enter the initiative order and take your turn after any other creature's turn until your prior initiative reappears. Therefore, in readying an action in this situation, you are risking completely losing that action, in which case your initiative would remain the same. Indeed, it's up the DM both as to whether the trigger is specific enough, and whether to make the circumstance causing the trigger occurs in the first place.

To illustrate what happens exactly, I'll describe an example, and all possible occuring cases. I will make the following assumptions: Your initiative count is at position #3, and there are 26 creatures / objects that act in initiative. Additionally, you choose a trigger and ready your action during your second turn (the third turn of round 2), having cast Wall of Fire on your first turn ( the third turn of round 1).

Case 1: The trigger doesn't occur before the initiative count returns to 3 on the third round, that is, before the initiative count again returns to your originial initiative. You have effectively lost a standard action from the second round, and the duration of the sustain effect has not increased in total number of turns of existence.

Case 2: The trigger occurs before the initiative count returns to your originial initiative on the third round.

---->Case 2a: You choose not to take the readied action when the trigger occurs (say for example all other creatures are dead and you don't want to waste your encounter power). The effect is similar to the effect from Case 1, except you only waste a single standard action from round 2, and are not forced to also waste the encounter power.

---->Case 2b: You choose to take the readied action when the trigger occurs, and the trigger occurs on the turn immediately after you ready your action (still on round 2). Your initiative doesn't change because your turn was already immediately before the turn you interrupted, and your future turns function as it normally would have. You do not effectively lose the standard action, nor do you wait longer to take actions on your next turn. The sustain duration from your turn on round 2 is unaffected by your readied action.

---->Case 2c: You choose to take the trigger, and the trigger occurs any time between 2 turns after you readied your action and the turn before your initiative returns on round 3. (i.e. Case 2 is true, but Cases 1, 2a and as 2b are not). Your initiative resets to immediately before the interrupted creature's turn. You must wait longer for your next turn than you would have without having taken the readied action, and your sustained effect persists during that same amount of time. While the sustain duration is technically longer than it would have been without taking the readied action, this effect is balanced by preventing you from taking a full set of actions for a longer time.

I will use the most extreme example to visually illustrate what *CASE 2c really means below*

"A" represents the person who was assigned initiative count 1 during round 1, "B" respresents the person with initiative 2 during round 1, "C" represents you (with initiative 3 during round 1), et cetera. The following format visually depicts the order each round:

Round #: A (Turn # Person A took that round), B (Turn # Person B took that round), ..., Z (Turn # Person Z took that round).

Round 1: A(1), __ _ B(2), C(3), ..., ..., ..., ..., ..., Z(26)

Round 2: A(1), __ _ B(2), C(3), ..., ..., ..., ..., ..., Z(26)

Round 3: A(1), C(0), B(2), D(3), E(4),..., ..., ..., ..., Z(25)

Round 4: A(1), C(2), B(3), D(4), E(5),..., ..., ..., ..., Z(26)

Round 5: Same as Round 4.

** In Round 1, you, player C, cast Fire Wall during the third turn of the first round, depicted as C(3).

** In Round 2, you, player C, sustain your fire wall, and ready an action during the third turn of the second round, depicted in bold as C(3).

** In Round 3, during creature B's turn, the trigger occurs, and you decide to take the readied action at that time. The interrupted creature's turn is depicted in bold, B(2).

**At the time you take the readied action, your initiative has now reset to a position immediately before creature B. Because your initiative has passed for this round, you lose your turn in round 3.

**Creature B has technically taken its turn for round three, the second turn for round 3, so C(0) is inserted, in italics, as a placeholder to represent your new position in initiative, but also to reinforce that you do not act in that round. You can see, therefore, because you lose your turn, there are only 25 turns in round 3.

** In Round 4, the initiative order has been reset, there is a new order, and there is a full number of turns in the round. Your new position in this round is depicted in bold, C(2), representing the next turn in which you have a full complement of actions after delaying your action in round 2.

** Note that by delaying in this manner, you have effectively waited almost 2 rounds before taking another full turn, exactly 50 turns (23 turns in round 2, 25 in round 3, and 2 in round 4). At the same time, your sustain effect has lasted for 50 turns, 24 more turns than it would have if you had not delayed your turn. You get the same number of "bonus turns" on your sustain effect as you do "penalty" turns without a full set of actions. This is also 24 turns longer to wait for a full set of actions than if you had lost your readied action, as in Case 1, or chosen not to take the readied action, as in Case 2a!!!

---> Here you can clearly see that the more time it takes for your readied action to trigger before your original initative returns, the longer you will be without a full turn (assuming you decide to take the readied action).

**If you decide to take your readied action on a trigger that occurs on the last possible turn before you lose the action, as in the example above from Case 2c, you will have the max number of turns without taking a full set of actions. In this extreme maximum case, your next fully function turn after delaying occurs (MAX) turns after it otherwise would have had you not taken the delayed action, where (MAX) = (Number of creatures in the initiative - 2). Remember, had you not taken the delayed action, and let it go to waste, you would have waited a full round (only 26 turns), as normal.

**If you decide to take your readied action on a trigger that occurs on the turn after you delayed the action, as in case 2b, you will have the minimum number of turns without taking a full set of actions. In this extreme minumum case, your next fully functional turn after delaying occurs 0 turns after it otherwise would have had you not taken the delayed action, meaning that the turn order is NOT affected, and you wait a full round as normal.

If you have followed the discussion this far, it should be clear that the benefit of taking a readied action when it triggers must be carefully weighed against the corresponding sacrifice you must make in turns without a full set of actions available to you. The sacrifice is greater the more turns it takes to trigger after you delay, and you can always choose to ignore the trigger, so you may be inclined to electively lose the delayed action in favor of taking your next turn normally, depending on how badly you need to take the delayed action, when you would take it, and how many turns without more actions you would lose as a result.


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