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I had a group of Bullywugs ambush the party when they were fighting a giant frog in a clearing in a swamp. The bullywugs were hidden in reeds and sedges around the clearing and they had all readied an action to attack from hiding when their leader called out the order. When they attacked, I allowed them to use both parts of their multiattack (throwing spears from the obscuring vegetation and then leaping into the clearing to follow up with a bite attack).

One of my players cried foul, because a PC using extra attack cannot use the extra attack as part of a reation. I countered that there is nowhere in the rules that equates Multiattack with Extra Attack, so that rule does not apply.

Please say how you would rule this and why.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "PC using extra attack cannot use the extra attack as part of a reaction" - so do you ask about a reaction (say, an opportunity attack), or a Ready action? \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Dec 21 '16 at 12:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor a ready action is a reaction \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Dec 21 '16 at 12:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DaleM I'm not sure it is correct to say that. "Ready" is a type of action. You must take the Ready action in your turn in order to use the reaction later. Yes it will expend a reaction (primarily for the "one reaction per round" restriction), but the Ready action itself is not a reaction - you can't take it as a reaction, you must take an action first. \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Dec 21 '16 at 16:43
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The rules for Multiattack in the Monster Manual (page 11) are perfectly clear:

A creature that can make multiple attacks on its turn has the Multiattack ability. A creature can’t use Multiattack when making an opportunity attack, which must be a single melee attack.

Or, in other words, it works exactly the same way as Extra Attack, and can't be used with the Ready action.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ My interpretation was that the fact that it can make multiple attacks on its turn doesn't mean it can't make multiple attacks on someone else's turn. Indeed, it goes on to say that one type of reaction must be a single melee attack, whereas it doesn't mention any other kind of reaction (and of course a readied action is a reaction). If multiattack can't be used as a reaction, full stop, this was the perfect opportunity to say it! \$\endgroup\$ – Clearly Toughpick Dec 21 '16 at 17:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ "the fact that it can make multiple attacks on its turn doesn't mean it can't make multiple attacks on someone else's turn". Yes, but you're making a leap of logic. The fact that it can make multiple attacks on its turn also doesn't mean it can't cast fireball, but it certainly doesn't imply that it can! \$\endgroup\$ – Gregor Dec 21 '16 at 20:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ClearlyToughpick It's exactly the same wording as Extra Attack, and as Gregor points out, there's nothing saying your character can't use the Ready action to become a god. Abilities say what they can do, not what they can't. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Dec 21 '16 at 21:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Miniman I don't agree with your wording 'the rules... are perfectly clear'. Had they been, I would not have asked the question. That said, I think allowing multiattack to be used in this way is overpowered, so I agree with your conclusion, if not your analysis. It's for that reason I have answered my own question below. \$\endgroup\$ – Clearly Toughpick Dec 21 '16 at 23:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just to expand on my previous comment, the first sentence of your extract @Miniman is the introductory sentence in the Multiattack section of the Monster Manual. As an introductory sentence, and like many others on those pages, it can be read as describing - but not limiting - a concept. This reading is reinforced by the fact that one use of Multiattack as a reaction is explicitly proscribed whereas others are not; this is in stark contrast to the wording of Extra Attack, which is perfectly clear on the matter. There are no leaps of logic here. \$\endgroup\$ – Clearly Toughpick Dec 22 '16 at 0:50
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In accordance with the other answers here, and with a tweet by rules designer Jeremy Crawford in response to a similar question:

Can a creature (or druid) ready the multiattack action?

A creature is meant to use Multiattack only on its turn, not on someone else's.

...A creature cannot make more than one attack as part of a readied attack: it can use multiattack only on its own turn.

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Miniman's answer is the best - per the rules of the game, multiattack can't be used within the readied action mechanic.

The one element I would add to the answer, though, is don't let the rules get in the way of your game. You're the DM and you say what goes. The books/rules are here to make the fantasy world more consistent, which makes it feel more real, but ultimately the rules submit to the game - the game does not submit to the rules.

In your specific case, when I envision the scenario, I think the distance makes it something of a stretch... I see some spears fly from the bushes which the characters react to, and then they're ready for whatever would pop out, so I'd lean toward not letting the bullywog leap from the reeds and still follow up with a bite - by the time the frog-man's feet hit the ground, the characters are attuned to the added danger. But that said, if they were much closer and in melee range, I 100% would give the bullywogs their multiattack, as (in my mind's eye) that seems much more fluid and quick... you can get off both a stab and a bite within a second or two before your opposition really comprehends what just happened to them.

Underlying point being: D&D (and RP games in general) are meant to make the entire world come to life and enable the players to do quite literally anything they want. There obviously cannot be rules that encompass "anything they want", and so the rules we do have are going to be imperfect and generalized. As the DM, you get to decide when those rules apply, and when they do not, and though I would have made a different judgement call in your specific scenario, I think you were well within your rights as "master of the game" to allow it to play out the way you did.

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