DnD 5e has a fairly clear set of rules governing a player's possible Actions in Combat, and in other fast-paced situations a GM may break time into rounds. Among the listed actions, some would seem to initiate combat (e.g., Attack) but others are routinely performed out of combat (e.g., casting a ritual spell).

Certain rules make the combat actions sound like they are only for the purpose of managing fast-paced events. On the other hand, there are inconsistenties with this view. For example, spells cast as bonus actions are especially fast spells (citation needed), but cannot be cast as an action (citation needed), so length of time cannot be the only distinguishing characteristic between spells which can be cast as an action or bonus action.

So ... what can a player do in combat that they cannot do while adventuring?

Here's the start of an answer (to which I'll add as answers come in):

  1. Behaviors that trigger combat. (Debatable, since the behavior may have actually occurred out of combat.)
  2. Certain reactions whose triggers cannot occur out of combat.

Please clearly specify your reasons for your answer (e.g., RAW, RAI, logical deduction, common practice for groups you've been part of, etc). Citation of rules or expert opinion adds value to your answers.


Similar to how you can take an action outside of combat, you can also take bonus actions (assuming of course, they are available).

There are some noteworthy exceptions, specifically that if the bonus action has requirements they must be met. For instance, you could only parry if someone was attacking you. If you were casting a spell as a bonus action you would need the spell components, etc.

A good way to think about it - combat is just a special set of rules to help govern how combat takes place, and makes it easier for the DM to track everything happening in such a short period of time. Outside of needing to track time sensitive events there is no restrictions other then the ones mentioned above. I believe the related question & answer summarize this already.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Please edit as to your source, whether RAW, RAI, practice you've observed, etc. Citations welcome. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 21 '16 at 21:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Note that it's usually trivial for players to start a combat amongst themselves, and there's no rules saying you actually have to attempt harm to your opponents in combat; Even if a GM were to rule that some spells & etc. can only be performed in combat, that's not really a meaningful limitation. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Apr 22 '16 at 0:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GMJoe I didn't understand the motivation for your comment the first day I read it. On second read, is your implication, "Even if combat was necessary for an action or bonus action to be performed, players could do so at will" ? \$\endgroup\$ Apr 24 '16 at 19:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SorcererQzot Pretty much, yeah. Almost any action players can take in combat with monsters they can also take when not in combat with monsters; I figured an extra argument might strengthen this answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Apr 27 '16 at 0:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is right. It's like the zoom mentioned in this answer. Initiative order happens because so many things are happening at once. Outside of combat, it's easier: "Ok, it's pretty peaceful here in the castle bedroom. The wind is blowing gently from the open window and the moon is up. You wanted to cast Identify on that amulet you found, right Bill? And I think Mary wanted to search the chest in the corner? Is there anything else anyone wants to do before leaving this room?" \$\endgroup\$ Jun 29 '20 at 15:07

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