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When the trigger occurs, you can either take your reaction right after the trigger finishes or ignore the trigger. (PHB, Ch9, Actions in Combat)

Does that mean that by ignoring the trigger you don't take reaction, and therefore can take it the next time the trigger occurs? Or is your readied action wasted?

E.g. a mage is ready to blast any enemy charging through the door, but it's just a lowly xvart. Can she skip to the next one?

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If you ignore one occurrence of a trigger, you don't have to ignore subsequent triggers.

In the example in the question, the mage can opt not to blast any of the triggering enemies; this does not restrict her ability to blast other triggering enemies later in the round.

Looking at the rules, there's nothing that says a character can't react to a trigger after ignoring an earlier trigger. The rule cited in the question applies every time a triggering event occurs, and as long as the character still has not taken a reaction, they can choose to use it or ignore the trigger.

The character is bound by the circumstance they chose to trigger their reaction, however. If the mage declared she would "blast the first thing that comes through the door", then that's the limit of what will trigger her reaction.

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    \$\begingroup\$ So do you think the freedom to skip should be counterbalanced by asking for very specific triggers? \$\endgroup\$ – Nerdrage Feb 20 '16 at 19:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think the circumstances a player gives for triggering readied actions should be simple, but not necessarily specific. Ultimately this is up to the DM; if the players are getting tricky with Ready triggers in ways that seem abusive, they can put whatever limits in place they feel are necessary. And, of course, the monsters and NPCs the players are fighting with can use the same tactics against the players. \$\endgroup\$ – Marq Feb 20 '16 at 20:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Its not really possible to make this abusive. You burn an action and reaction for something that might happen. A player can be as specific as they want so long as they have a trigger condition that is metc nothing the in the phb restricts the ready action from being creative or advantageous. Example, i use ready actions on casters to force concentration checks due to damage. \$\endgroup\$ – Lino Frank Ciaralli Feb 23 '16 at 22:04
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If you ignore the trigger, you give up your readied action.

It means that you can take the readied action as a reaction after the trigger occurs, or not. If you ignore the trigger, you then forgo your readied action. You can take the Ready action again on your next turn. The language seems weird, but its intent is to specify that when the trigger occurs, you don't have to take your readied action. If circumstances have changed, you can choose to not take your readied action after all.

Offering the opportunity to "ignore the trigger" is all the rules have to say on the matter. Any disagreement about what that means will be up to the DM to adjudicate. In the example you provided, it would really depend on the trigger explained by the player, and the adjudication of what that means by the DM. If the player said, for example, "I ready a fire bolt to blast the first enemy that comes through the door," then I wouldn't allow the player to "hold" their readied action if the first enemy isn't one that they want to attack.

The rules say you can take your reaction or ignore the trigger. By offering no additional information, this strongly implies that you can't take another trigger, or change your trigger if you choose to ignore the first one. I think the rules would say so, if that were the case. The player is given two options when the trigger occurs, and that's it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @RedWullf I didn't sense this strong implication, that's why I asked. Don't you think that if you had only one chance the rules would warn you? \$\endgroup\$ – Nerdrage Feb 20 '16 at 19:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Nerdrage I read the same either/or implication as Red Wullf. In fact, I had never even considered Mark Cogan's interpretation prior to reading this question. When the rules don't say you can do something, but also don't say you can't (as seems to be the case here), at best it falls to "DM's discretion". \$\endgroup\$ – Dan Henderson Jun 2 '16 at 22:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you read the rules literally, nothing indicates that you cannot react to the second occurrence of the trigger instead of the first. If the trigger can occur multiple times, "when the trigger occurs" is a conditional that is met multiple times, and so the then clause happens multiple times. "When it is noon, you can eat lunch or skip lunch" means that if I skip one lunch, I can still eat lunch the next day. \$\endgroup\$ – Xavier Lebec Nov 19 '17 at 23:28
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I'm leaning towards there is only one trigger camp

When the trigger occurs, ... or ignore the trigger

Which you can contrast with:

When a trigger occurs, ... or ignore that trigger

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    \$\begingroup\$ That wording contrast would only be used if the Ready action could have multiple different triggers defined. "A" is always grammatically incorrect for one trigger, whether it checks once or multiple times. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 20 '16 at 18:16

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