Concerning the following scenario:

  • On her turn of the combat round, Alice readies an action to attack Bob as soon as he's within her weapon's reach.
  • On his subsequent turn in the same round, Bob readies an action to attack Alice as soon as she's within his weapons's reach, and moves adjacent to Alice.

In what order are Alice and Bob's attacks resolved?

  • \$\begingroup\$ My motivation for asking this is because it bears on the jousting scheme I was working on in rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/68879/…. There's a preexisting answer at rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/51048/…, but it deals with 3.5e \$\endgroup\$ – Sebkha Sep 23 '15 at 9:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Is your fundamental question "how are simultaneous actions resolved?" (such as Alice's Readied attack and Bob's Attack action from above) or "how are simultaneous readied actions resolved?" (such as Alice and Bob readying attacks that are simultaneously triggered by Claire)? \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Sep 23 '15 at 14:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @daze413/@nisua60 It is indeed different from a regular (unreadied) Attack action. If Bob simply moved and attacked, Alice's readied attack would occur between Bob's movement and Bob's attack. If Bob's attack is readied instead, the outcome is not so clear -- hence the question. \$\endgroup\$ – Sebkha Sep 23 '15 at 23:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ If horse movement is part of this, please consider putting it in the question instead of in a comment. Implied stuff doesn't work very well, because people tend to answer the question asked, not the question implied. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Sep 25 '15 at 15:31

Your example is somewhat flawed. If Bob readies an action to attack Alice as soon as she's within reach, and then moves within reach, it's just a normal move/attack sequence. No Readying is necessary, in which case Alice resolves her readied attack as soon as Bob is within reach and then Bob acts.

Let's go with another example.

Alice has the best initiative. Alice readies an attack if a foe enters a certain area. Bob has the next best initiative. He readies a spell if a foe enters the same area as Alice is watching. Then a foe enters that area. Who goes first?

The description of the Ready action (p. 192, PHB) doesn't state this situation specifically but it does imply some things:

  • First, the Ready action is used to "get the jump" on an opponent that is acting after you in the initiative round.

  • When the trigger condition is met, you get to go before your opponent because you would have gotten to go before them in the initiative order anyway.

  • If we take that and expand it to others who might be reacting to the same trigger, then multiple readied actions should be resolved in the order in which their characters would have normally acted in the initiative round.

So, Alice would go first, then Bob, then the foe if it survived.

So, my interpretation is that multiple Readied actions are resolved in initiative order (whatever that would have been).

  • \$\begingroup\$ This ruling is endorsed by "Word of God" via Twitter. (@Sebkha: If two creatures Ready on simultaneous triggers, do they act simultaneously or in initiative order? @JeremyECrawford It's up to the DM. As DM, I'd have those creatures act in initiative order. #DnD) \$\endgroup\$ – Sebkha Oct 7 '15 at 14:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ sageadvice.eu/2015/11/05/two-creatures-ready-a-trigger \$\endgroup\$ – Sebkha Nov 6 '15 at 16:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't think the answer's reasoning is very sound with respect to the logic at the end. Specifically "When the trigger condition is met, you get to go before your opponent because you would have gotten to go before them in the initiative order anyway." Ready does not guarantee that you will go before an enemy as it wholly depends on what trigger you use. If your trigger is "when I get attacked" your Readied action comes after that attack not before. Because of that the third bullet thus has no basis. The conclusion may or may not be correct, but the logic is wrong. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Sep 18 '18 at 15:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think "initiative order" could be clarified : it usually represents the order within a round, and it sometimes is different from the order in which actions are readied. Say Alice readies the action on round 1 at init 5 ; then Bob readies the action on round 2 at init 15 ; lastly foe moves (on round 2) at init 10. Alice should go first, despite being after Bob in the initiative order, right ? \$\endgroup\$ – Bash Mar 8 '19 at 12:31

The person at the table controlling the creature, on whose turn the effects are happening, decides the order1

This optional rule for resolving simultaneous effects is provided for in Xanathar's Guide To Everything:

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.

In your example it's Bob's turn, so Bob gets to decide in which order these two simultaneous effects resolve.

1: If there are (somehow) two people at the table in this situation the DM decides the order if they can't agree.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Both title and conclusion omit the fact that this rule is optional, not general - I feel the answer would be improved by insisting on this part. \$\endgroup\$ – Bash Mar 8 '19 at 11:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Bash the fact the rule is optional is included in the first sentence under the title \$\endgroup\$ – illustro Mar 8 '19 at 11:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ The rules presented in the three core books do not cover simultaneous effects at all. Hence the XGtE optional rule (which is the only rule in the game which covers this eventuality) \$\endgroup\$ – illustro Mar 8 '19 at 11:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @illustro Much! \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. Mar 8 '19 at 18:37

DM determines the order of events

Like many places where the rules have been left ambiguous, it's the DM's job to determine the result. In the case of a joust, the order of events could justifiably be based on weapon length (and, IIRC, was determined that way in a previous edition) and the DM is allowed expected to make a determination (even if that determination contradicts RAW).

But, for most situations, @Andrew Cooper's solution is sufficient.

  • \$\begingroup\$ It might be worth mentioning that Xanathar's added an optional rule for adjudicating simultaneous effects. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Sep 14 '18 at 18:46

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